Foreign Subsidies

The EU Foreign Subsidies Regulation (“FSR”), which creates a new clearance mechanism for non-EU subsidies granted to companies engaging in certain activities in the EU, took effect on 12 July 2023, with notification obligations starting on 12 October 2023. On 22 February 2024 the European Commission’s (“Commission”) Directorate General for Competition (“DG COMP”) published a Policy Brief discussing the 100 days since the start of the notification obligation for concentrations.

This post provides an update to our previous blog post on FSR enforcement expectations for 2024, taking account of the Policy Brief, the reported enforcement activity of the Commission’s Directorate General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs (“DG GROW”) for public procurement procedures, and the launch of the first in-depth investigation by DG GROW into a public procurement procedure in Bulgaria.

Key Takeaways

  • The Commission does not publish the decisions it adopts after a preliminary review and will not issue guidelines on key concepts underpinning the FSR before 2026. In the meantime it has sought to provide some additional guidance to companies through informal documents such as Q&A pages, news articles, and Policy Briefs. However, it has yet to provide guidance on how it assesses the distortive potential of foreign subsidies. Companies will therefore have to anticipate how such foreign subsidies will be assessed under the FSR, with a view to developing their own narratives to persuade the Commission that any foreign subsidies they may have received are unproblematic.
  • As of 20 January 2024, DG COMP had received 53 (pre-)notifications, higher than the 30 notifications it expected annually in its 2021 FSR proposal. To review these files and launch investigations on its own, DG COMP has been restructured with the creation of a new directorate (Directorate K) from 1 March.
  • As on 19 January, DG GROW, which is in charge of reviewing public procurement procedures, had received over 100 notifications / declarations. DG GROW also opened its first in-depth investigation into foreign subsidies received by CRRC, a Chinese rolling stock manufacturer.

Continue Reading The EU Foreign Subsidies Regulation – Key takeaways from the first 100 days

The EU Foreign Subsidies Regulation (“FSR”), which creates a new screening mechanism for non-EU subsidies granted to companies doing business and engaging in certain activities in the EU, took effect on 12 July 2023, with notification obligations starting on 12 October 2023. This post looks back at the FSR’s first six months and

Continue Reading The EU Foreign Subsidies Regulation – Enforcement expectations for 2024

The EU Foreign Subsidies Regulation (FSR) adopted in December 2022 creates a new instrument to prevent foreign subsidies from distorting the European Union (EU) internal market. It aims to fill a perceived regulatory gap left by EU State aid rules applying to subsidies granted by EU countries but not by foreign states. It started to

Continue Reading What does the new EU Foreign Subsidies Regulation (FSR) mean for companies doing business in the EU?

The Foreign Subsidies Regulation (“FSR”) enters into force today, 12 July 2023. It creates a new instrument designed to prevent foreign subsidies from distorting the EU internal market (see our blog). The objective is to level the playing field within EU markets between companies subject to scrutiny under the EU State aid rules and companies receiving subsidies from non-EU Member States. Two days ago, on 10 July 2023, the European Commission (the “Commission”) adopted the Implementing Regulation (“IR”), which sets out the procedure and enacts the notifications forms. Continue Reading The EU Foreign Subsidies Regulation starts to apply – what you need to know about the notification obligations

European Union (“EU”) Foreign Subsidies Regulation (“FSR”), a new state aid instrument adopted at the end of 2022, will have a significant impact on transactions in the EU. The FSR impacts any company that is present in or wants the enter the EU, and has received financial support in any form from non-EU governments. 

The

Continue Reading EU Foreign Subsidies Regulation – Key Takeaways

Regulation (EU) 2022/2560 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 December 2022 on foreign subsidies distorting the internal market (FSR) entered into force on 12 January 2023 and will start to apply as of 12 July 2023.

The FSR creates a brand new instrument to fill a regulatory gap, by preventing foreign subsidies from distorting the European Union (EU) internal market. Whereas companies receiving public support in the EU are subject to strict State aid rules, companies obtaining public support outside the EU are generally not. This was perceived as putting companies in the EU at a disadvantage compared to companies that obtained subsidies outside the EU, but that also engaged in economic activity in the Union.

The FSR’s scope extends far beyond the obvious State support, to cover common types of benefits that are granted all over the world, including in countries driven by a market economy. Its obligations will inevitably place an additional administrative burden on companies engaging in an economic activity in the EU. Acceptance of a foreign subsidy distorting the EU internal market may have far-reaching consequences for the company. The FSR places additional compliance obligations on companies, and for many will entail a thorough assessment to identify and justify foreign subsidies received. For companies considering transactions in the EU, the FSR effectively creates a third layer of deal conditionality, besides merger control and Foreign Direct Investment laws. This is adding a further unique set of thresholds, timings and factual considerations, to be included in companies’ strategies to invest in the EU. This will require expertise in EU antitrust and State aid law, and a good understanding of the details of the FSR.

Key things you need to know:

  • As under EU State aid law, a foreign subsidy includes any form of public support granted by a third country, e.g., direct grants, capital injections, interest-free or low-interest loans, etc., but also support such as tax exemptions or reductions, and exclusive rights without proper remuneration.
  • From 12 October 2023, when acquiring control of a company in the EU or participating in a public tender in the EU, companies will have to notify the European Commission (Commission) of foreign subsidies received, if the relevant thresholds are met, or if the Commission so requests. Notifications have suspensive effect. Failure to notify may lead to severe sanctions.
  • The Commission may launch ex officio investigations into other market situations that are not already caught by other legislation.
  • If the Commission deems that a foreign subsidy distorts the internal market, the beneficiary may need to apply remedies, such as reducing its market presence. If these remedies are not effective, the Commission may prohibit a concentration or the award of a public procurement contract that is not yet closed.

Continue Reading The EU Foreign Subsidies Regulation enters into force

On 4 January 2023, the UK’s new subsidy control regime came into force, implementing a new subsidy regulation framework designed for the post-Brexit era.  Underpinned by the Subsidy Control Act 2022 (the “Act”), related statutory instruments and government guidance, the new regime aims to grant public authorities the power to design and award subsidies in an agile way while complying with the UK’s international commitments on subsidy control.   Key things you need to know:

  • The UK’s new subsidy control regime seeks to provide a framework that allows public authorities to award subsidies efficiently, while ensuring that such subsidies do not distort the domestic market or fall foul of the UK’s international commitments on subsidy control.
  • Public authorities are responsible for self-assessing a proposed subsidy or scheme’s compliance with the regime’s requirements.
  • Proposed Subsidies and Schemes of Interest (“SSoIs”) and Particular Interest (“SSoPIs”), i.e. subsidies above certain thresholds or of certain importance, are subject to referral – voluntary (for SSoIs) and mandatory (for SSoPIs) – to the Competition and Market Authority’s Subsidy Advice Unit (“SAU”), which will provide non-binding advice regarding the proposed subsidy. The Government can exercise a “call-in” referral power, i.e. refer a subsidy or scheme to the SAU for review.
  • Subsidies that qualify for assessment under a “Streamlined Route” (“SR”), i.e. subsidies that are less likely to cause distortions on the market and meet the relevant criteria set out by legislation, will not be subject to referral or the Government’s call-in powers.
  • An awarded subsidy can be challenged in court, though during a relatively short (in many cases 30-day) window. A range of remedies are available to challenging parties, including prohibition, injunctions and recovery orders.

Continue Reading The UK’s new subsidy control regime comes into force

On September 29, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a package of three antitrust bills (H.R. 3843) by a vote of 242-184. The package includes: (1) the Merger Filing Fee Modernization Act; (2) the Foreign Merger Subsidy Disclosure Act; and (3) the State Antitrust Enforcement Venue Act.Continue Reading U.S. House of Representatives Passes Antitrust Legislative Package

On 30 June 2022, the Council of the EU (the “Council”) and the European Parliament (the “Parliament”) reached a much awaited agreement on the proposal of the European Commission (the “Commission”) for the Regulation on foreign subsidies distorting the internal market (the “FSR”) (see our alert on the proposal). This political agreement swiftly concludes the trilogue discussions initiated in the beginning of May this year, after the Council (see our blog post) and the Parliament (see our blog post) each adopted their own positions. The agreement has been approved by the Permanent Representatives Committee (“COREPER”) of the Council on 13 July and the Committee on International Trade of the European Parliament on 14 July.

The FSR grants substantial new powers to the Commission and “will help close the regulatory gap whereby subsidies granted by non-EU governments currently go largely unchecked”, according to remarks from Executive Vice-President of the Commission, Margrethe Vestager. It will be deeply transformative for M&A and public procurement in the EU.

The agreement on the FSR did not lead to any major changes in the proposal made by the Commission. The most notable points of discussion between the Parliament and Council and the outcome of this agreement are:

  • The thresholds above which companies are obliged to inform the Commission about their foreign subsidies remain unchanged compared to the Commission’s proposal;
  • The time period in which the Commission has to investigate foreign subsidies in large public procurement has been reduced. In the same way, the retroactive application of the FSR has been limited to foreign subsidies granted in the five years prior to the application of the regulation;
  • The Commission will issue guidelines on the existence of a distortion, the balancing test and its power to request notification of non-notifiable transactions, at the latest three years after the entry into force of the FSR; and
  • A commitment to a multilateral approach to foreign subsidies above the FSR and the possibility for the Commission to engage in a dialogue with third countries has been included.

Continue Reading The Council of the EU and the European Parliament agree on the Foreign Subsidies Regulation

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