European and Swedish Antitrust News (Jan 7, 2020)

Photo: H Ellgaard

The Swedish Competition Authority concluded that there are “unreasonable differences” in fees paid by different municipal housing companies to ensure that they are ran on commercial terms. In other news, the Swedish competition authority has initiated a special investigation of the Easypark – ‘SMS Park’ merger, the Commission approved state aid to a Swedish testbed for electromobility and to a Swedish seafarer scheme.

Unreasonable Differences in Loan Guarantee Fees paid by Municipal Housing Companies in Sweden.   Municipality owned housing companies typically have municipalities as guarantors for the companies’ debt, resulting in lower cost of debt, and therefore need to pay guarantee fees to their owners to be considered as ran on commercial terms. A new study conducted by Fundcurve and presented by the Swedish competition authority finds that 70% of the studied companies pay a fee that is too low whereas for 26% it’s too high, while 4% of the companies don’t have guarantees. Particularly, for ¼ of the companies the fees are more than 33% lower than what the report model as the appropriate fee and the authority concludes that it’s unreasonable to arrive at such different results.

Special Investigation of Easypark and ‘SMS Park’ Merger. The Swedish Competition authority has initiated a special investigation of a concentration in the market for mobile payment solutions for parking services. Easypark, a group headquartered in Sweden that operate a leading digital app for parking in Europe, on August 29 acquired the company Inteleon Holding AB which operated the digital parking solution business ‘SMS Park’ used in 260 cities in Sweden and with almost 2 million users. The transaction didn’t meet the benchmarks for an obligation to notify the authority, but the authority has decided to launch a special investigation of the possibly anti-competitive effects of the concentration. The authority has until March 17 to decide if the concentration shall be prohibited.

Commission Approves Battery State Aid. The European Commission has approved approximately €3.2 billion in aid from seven member states for research and innovation in all segments of the battery value chain. The state aid mainly involves Germany, France and Italy, but also includes €50M of state aid to the Swedish Electric Transport Laboratory (SEEL), a testbed for electromobility in Gothenburg and Stockholm financed by the government and industrial partners.

Commission Approves State Aid in Swedish Seafarer Scheme. The European Commission has approved maritime transport state aid schemes in Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Poland and Sweden. The Commission found that all five Member States have agreed to apply the benefits of their respective seafarer scheme to all vessels flying the flag of any EU or EEA Member State. Under seafarer schemes, labor costs may be partly or totally reduced to increase competitiveness and prevent relocation of shipping companies to low-tax countries outside of the EU.

Upcoming Seminar on EU State Aid. SIEPS will hold a seminar on how EU state aid policy and the interpretation of competition law may evolve as European companies face competition from state subsidized third parties and as the EU aim to strengthen strategic parts of its industries on January 31 in Brussels.–effects-on-state-aid-and-internal-market-rules/

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