State aid investigation opened into loans to Icelandic investment banks
The EFTA Surveillance Authority decided today to open a formal state aid investigation into loans granted to the investment banks Saga, VBS and Askar Capital.
The loans, of a total amount of 52 billion ISK (330 million EUR), were granted on favourable terms by the Icelandic Treasury in March 2009. The Authority received a complaint concerning the loans from an interested party in July 2010.
The purpose of the loans was to reschedule short-term collateral and securities loans from the Central Bank of Iceland to long-term loans. This was thought necessary because the Central Bank loans were in default.
The Central Bank collateral loans were secured amongst others with bonds issued by the three commercial banks, Glitnir, Kaupthing and Landsbanki Islands. Following the collapse of those banks in October 2008, the value of the underlying security diminished severely. The investment banks were unable to provide other security or settle the debt.
The Icelandic authorities claim that through the loan conversion, they have endeavoured to protect the interest of the state and acted in line with the conduct of a private creditor. The Authority, however, has doubts whether the terms agreed by the Treasury are consistent with commercial conditions. If not, the loan conversion could be regarded as unlawful state aid within the meaning of the EEA rules.
VBS Investment Bank and Askar Capital Investment Bank are already in liquidation and the operating license of Saga Investment Bank has recently been revoked. The Authority nevertheless considers it appropriate to finalise its assessment of whether or not the terms of the loans are compatible with the state aid provisions of the EEA Agreement.
Should the Authority conclude that the loan conversions are to be regarded as unlawful state aid, it would be obliged to require the national authorities to recover the aid from the recipients. If the recipient of such aid is in liquidation, claims shall, if possible, be filed against the estate for recovery of incompatible aid.
For further information, please contact:
Mr. Trygve Mellvang-Berg
Press & Information Officer
tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 66
Mobile (+32)(0)492 900 187