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PR(96)09: Complaint on alleged aid to Arcus (Norway) provokes investigation


The EFTA Surveillance Authority has decided to open an investigation procedure with regard to a complaint on the Norwegian Government's financing of Arcus.

The Norwegian Government separated, with effect from 1 January 1996, the production and distribution activities of A/S Vinmonopolet from the retail monopoly on alcoholic beverages and transferred them to the recently established state-owned companies in the Arcus Group. The book value of those assets was written down by approximately two thirds (NOK 700 million) to NOK 357 million in A/S Vinmonopolet's accounts for 1995. The latter figure corresponds with the Arcus Group's opening balance. The Arcus Group has otherwise received NOK 226 million from A/S Vinmonopolet to cover restructuring costs.

On the basis of information presented by the Norwegian authorities the Authority has not been able to acertain that the operation did not involve State aid. Any undervaluation of the assets transferred from A/S Vinmonopolet will represent aid to the Arcus Group, since the Arcus companies in that case will benefit from not having to bear the full costs of assets acquired from the State. A further examination is therefore needed.

The Norwegian authorities dispute that aid is involved in their financing of the Arcus group. The transactions referred to above have therefore been carried out without prior notification and initial approval by the Authority.

The decision to open proceedings is without prejudice to the final decision, which may still be to find that aid was not involved, or that possible aid elements may be compatible with the functioning of the EEA Agreement.

The Norwegian Government has been invited to submit its comments within a period of one month. Other EFTA States, EU States, and interested parties will be informed by the publication of a notice in the EEA Section of the Official Journal of the European Communities and the EEA Supplement thereto. Copies of that notice are immediately available on request.

For further information please contact Amund Utne (Competition and State Aid Directorate) on tel. 286 18 50 or Morten Sandberg on tel. 286 18 53.


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