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Sophie Bertin is a senior advisor to Covington in their Financial Services and Antitrust practice. Her current focus is on financial services topics, ranging from State aid, implementation of regulations, interplay between various regulations, including the new data protection rules; as well as the impact of new technologies (like Blockchain) on the financial services business models and resulting competition challenges.

Sophie has over 20 years of professional experience and she has broad experience helping banking clients on their strategy, restructuring, reorganization, risk management, regulatory and compliance, back-office operations and automation, as well as, advising on various issues around banking regulation and competition law (most notably State aid).

On 4 May 2022, the General Court of the European Union (the “General Court”) upheld the decision of the European Commission (the “Commission”) approving the rescue aid granted by Romania to the Romanian airline TAROM (T-718/20). With this judgment, the General Court clarifies the concepts used by the Commission when assessing whether aid can be authorised under the Guidelines on State aid for rescuing and restructuring non-financial undertakings in difficulty (“R&R Guidelines”).

The judgment is noteworthy as it interprets for the first time the starting point of the 10-year period during which it is forbidden to provide anew rescue or restructuring aid to an ailing company (the so-called “one time, last time” principle).

Continue Reading The General Court offers useful guidance to interpret the “one time, last time” principle when granting restructuring aid

On 4 May 2022, the Council of the EU (the “Council”) formally adopted its position on the proposal of the European Commission (the “Commission”) for a Regulation on foreign subsidies distorting the internal market (the “Foreign Subsidies Regulation”) (see our alert on the proposal). On the same day, the European Parliament (the “Parliament”) also adopted its position on the Foreign Subsidies Regulation (see our blog post). The Council’s adoption confirms the Commission’s initial proposal of the regulation while seeking to limit the Commission’s power to investigate foreign subsidies.

The three most important things for you to know about the recent amendments to the Foreign Subsidies Regulation:

  • The thresholds above which companies are obliged to inform the Commission about their foreign subsidies have been increased, reducing the scope of the new rules to a narrower set of acquisitions, mergers and public procurements. In addition, foreign subsidies of less than EUR 5 million would not be subject to notification and foreign subsidies of less than EUR 200,000 would escape any scrutiny.  
  • The time period in which the Commission has to investigate foreign subsidies in large public procurements has been reduced. Furthermore, the “retroactive” application of the Foreign Subsidy Regulation is limited to foreign subsidies granted in the five years prior to the application of the regulation.
  • The application of some concepts (e.g., the power to request prior notification) will be subject to further guidance by the Commission.


Continue Reading The Council of the EU endorses the European Commission’s proposal on the Foreign Subsidies Regulation

On 28 April 2022, the Subsidy Control Bill (the “Bill”) received Royal Assent, becoming the Subsidy Control Act 2022 (the “Act”).  The Act lays the basic framework for the new UK-wide subsidy control regime, which is now expected to come into force in Autumn 2022.  Although the Act primarily addresses UK public authorities and their legal obligations relating to the awarding of domestic subsidies, the new regime will be of particular interest to companies wishing to benefit from the more flexible post-Brexit subsidy regime moving forward.

Continue Reading UK Subsidy Control Bill granted Royal Assent

On 4 May 2022,  the European Parliament (the “Parliament”) adopted its position on the proposal of the European Commission (the “Commission”) for a Regulation on foreign subsidies distorting the internal market (the “Foreign Subsidies Regulation”) (see our alert on the proposal). It confirms the Commission’s powers to investigate and remedy the potential negative effects of foreign subsidies. It further approves a number of amendments adopted by the committee on international trade “to make the tool more effective and improve legal certainty”, according to the Committee’s press release.

Continue Reading The European Parliament endorses the EU Commission’s proposal on the Foreign Subsidies Regulation

On 23 March 2022, the European Commission (the “Commission”) adopted a Temporary Crisis Framework for State Aid measures to support the economy following the aggression against Ukraine by Russia (the “Framework”). In a similar fashion to the temporary framework that the Commission has adopted to address the COVID-19 outbreak (the “COVID-19 Temporary Framework”), and earlier, to deal with the 2008 financial crisis (the “Banking Framework”), the Framework is based on Article 107(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (the “TFEU”), which allows State aid to be granted in order to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy, in this case caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine and/or by the sanctions imposed or by the retaliatory counter measures taken in response. It sets out the conditions under which the Commission will assess such State aid. Measures that meet all the conditions set out in the Framework must be notified to the Commission and will be considered compatible with the Internal Market if all conditions are indeed met.

Continue Reading The Commission’s Temporary Crisis Framework for State Aid measures to support the economy following the aggression against Ukraine by Russia

The European Commission (the “Commission”) formally adopted on 27 January 2022 its new Guidelines on State aid for climate, environmental protection and energy (CEEAG). The CEEAG replace the guidelines which were in force since 2014 (EEAG) and integrate the new objectives of the EU Green Deal of a reduction of 55% net greenhouse gas emissions compared to the 1990 levels by 2030 and of carbon neutrality by 2050. The Commission has estimated that achieving the new 2030 target would require EUR 390 billion of additional annual investment compared to the levels in 2011-2020, an investment that cannot be borne by the private sector alone, and would therefore require public investments.

Continue Reading The Commission adopts its new Climate, Energy and Environmental Aid Guidelines (CEEAG)

On 25 November 2021, the Commission adopted its revised Communication on the Criteria for the analysis of the compatibility with the internal market of State aid to promote the execution of important projects of common European interest (“IPCEI”). This is particularly relevant for companies who have breakthrough innovative projects and need to seek public support for their projects. For example, under the current Communication, the Commission approved public support to two major research and innovation projects of European interest along the battery value chain for electric vehicles (“summer” and “autumn” projects) and a project in microelectronics. Various other projects are being assessed, for instance on Next Generation Cloud Infrastructure and Services and on green hydrogen.

The revised communication sets out the criteria following which the Commission will approve IPCEI with the State aid rules as of 1 January 2022.

Continue Reading The Commission has revised its communication on the Criteria for the analysis of the compatibility with the internal market of State aid to promote the execution of important projects of common European interest (“IPCEI”)

On 13-14 July, Covington’s Peter Camesasca and Sophie Bertin participated in panels discussing developments in Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”) and Competition enforcement and compliance at the annual Competition Law Asia-Pacific Conference.

Foreign Direct Investment Regimes

On the first day of the conference, Covington partner Peter Camesasca moderated a group of diverse panellists on recent

Companies that benefit from non-EU state support or subsidies will soon face heightened scrutiny in the European Union (EU) as the European Commission unveiled on May 5 its proposed Regulation on foreign subsidies distorting the internal market.  As its name suggests, the proposed Regulation will create a new tool to address what the European Commission sees as a “regulatory gap” in avoiding potential distortions caused by companies receiving non-EU subsidies and ensuring a “level playing field” in the EU.  Perhaps emblematic of its perceived importance at a time where calls from Member States to tackle potential distortive foreign investment have multiplied, it took the European Commission less than a year from the publication of the White Paper on levelling the playing field with respect to foreign subsidies to analyze the results of its public consultation and to put this proposal to the EU legislator.

The proposed Foreign Subsidies Regulation is wide-ranging and will apply in addition to the existing merger control and Foreign Direct Investment screening mechanisms.  Given the strong support it has received from most Member States and European industry bodies, it is widely anticipated that this new tool will be written into law without material change.

Here is what foreign companies that receive any form of non-EU public support and are active or considering deals involving the EU need to know, and prepare for.
Continue Reading More scrutiny to come in the EU for companies that receive non-EU subsidies

Covington represented Riga International Airport and the Latvian State in obtaining State aid approval for the recapitalization of Riga International Airport. On March 8, 2021, the European Commission (EC) approved the state recapitalization of up to €39.7 million, comprising a capital injection and a waived dividend payment for the 2019 financial year.
Continue Reading Covington Helps Riga Airport Secure EC Recapitalization Approval