State Aid

We are Stibbe State Aid specialists

We assist clients with analysis, adaptation, notification and litigation on State aid issues such as government subsidies, local authority support and exemption or reduction from taxes.

State Aid

As an increasingly important part of EU competition law, we assist companies and governments on a daily basis with practical State aid advice, notifications to the European Commission and complex litigation matters both at national and EU level.

Our team has a deep understanding of the principles and processes needed to ensure that the entire subsidy application and granting process is lawful under national rules and in particular with EU State aid rules.

Our intervention covers both the structuring of projects from a State aid perspective, preparing and defending notifications, recovery of illegal State aid, drafting of legislation and infringement procedures.

Matters include environmental subsidies for companies and power plants, national or local State support for small and large infrastructure projects, tax exemptions, and public transport subsidies. In these areas we handle litigation, transactional advice and hold informal contacts with the EU Commission.

Of particular note is our involvement with many landmark and high-profile State aid litigation cases before the European Commission, EU courts and various national courts. 

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02.07.2020 NL law
European Commission to pull the strings of foreign subsidies

Short Reads - The European Commission is adding powers to its toolbox to ensure a level playing field between European and foreign(-backed) companies active on the EU market. On top of merger control and Foreign Direct Investment screening obligations, companies may also need to account for future rules allowing scrutiny of subsidies granted by non-EU governments if those subsidies might distort the EU Single Market.

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04.06.2020 NL law
Not so fast – General Court clarifies merger control test

Short Reads - There is no magical number when it comes to “4-to-3” telecom mergers. On 28 May 2020, the EU’s General Court (“Court”) handed down a landmark judgment annulling a 2016 decision of the European Commission (“Commission”) blocking the merger between O2 UK and Three. The judgment fine-tunes the Commission’s application of the “significant impediment to effective competition” test for horizontal mergers and raises the bar for proving the removal of an “important competitive force” as a result of the merger.  

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07.05.2020 NL law
COVID-19: fast-forwarding competition law

Short Reads - Competition authorities are temporarily ‘green-lighting’ certain collaboration initiatives to safeguard the supply of essential products in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. At the same time, authorities warn against using the current exceptional circumstances to engage in anti-competitive practices, such as price-fixing, excessive pricing, refusals to deal or opportunistic takeovers. 

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04.06.2020 NL law
Please share – ACM conditionally clears shared mobility platform merger

Short Reads - There may soon be a new competition tool available to tackle structural competition concerns in dynamic tech and platform markets. Until then, competition authorities resort to existing tools to deal with these markets. The Dutch competition authority (ACM) recently subjected the merger of two emerging platforms – without significant market footprint – to behavioural remedies. On 20 May 2020, the ACM cleared the merger between the travel apps of Dutch rail operator NS and transport company Pon.

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04.06.2020 NL law
More hurdles to cross: Foreign Direct Investment gaining momentum

Short Reads - Cross-border acquisitions and mergers may soon have an extra hurdle to cross before receiving the green light. In the EU, the development of FDI screening mechanisms has gained speed after COVID-19. Member States are steering away from a liberal investment policy and instead opting for mechanisms to protect companies from foreign takeover. Also in the Netherlands, broader investment screening is on its way. Companies should take account of these developments when contemplating M&A deals.

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07.05.2020 NL law
Spreading fast: Dutch and Belgian COVID-19 State-aid approved

Short Reads - Many Member States are taking measures to support the economy during the COVID-19 crisis. The European Commission’s Temporary Framework enables the rapid approval of certain types of State aid. So far, three Dutch State aid schemes and six Belgian schemes were approved, providing the beneficiaries with legal certainty that the aid received is in line with EU State aid law and cannot be challenged at a later stage.

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02.07.2020 NL law
New competition tool: something old, something new, something borrowed

Short Reads - Large online platforms may face more regulatory obligations, whilst non-dominant companies’ unilateral conduct may soon be curbed. The European Commission intends to tool up its kit by adding a new regulation to keep digital gatekeepers in check, as well as providing more clarity on how to define digital markets in its new Market Definition Notice.

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04.06.2020 NL law
No proof of competitive disadvantage? No abusive favouritism

Short Reads - Companies claiming abuse of dominance in civil proceedings have their work cut out for them, as demonstrated by a ruling of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal. Real estate association VBO had accused dominant online platform Funda of favouritism. However, in line with the District Court’s earlier ruling, the Appeal Court dismissed the claim for insufficient evidence of negative effects on competition. The ruling confirms that the effect-based approach also applies in civil abuse claims, and that the standard of proof is high.    

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07.05.2020 NL law
ECJ confirms: no shortcut for ‘by object’ antitrust infringements

Short Reads - The European Court of Justice has found there is no shortcut for determining whether particular conduct can be held to have the object to restrict competition. A competition authority will always need to assess carefully whether the conduct reveals "a sufficient degree of harm to competition” before labelling it a ‘by object’ infringement. This is the case where there is sufficiently solid and reliable experience showing that this type of conduct is commonly regarded as being inherently anticompetitive.

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