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European Commission to investigate state aid given to container terminals in Antwerp

The European Commission has opened an 'in-depth' investigation into reductions in compensation payments that were granted by the port of Antwerp to two container terminal operators. 19 Jan 2016

The Port of Antwerp is managed by the Antwerp Port Authority and full-owned by the city of Antwerp. The authority makes land available to companies to operate in the port area through concession agreements, the Commission said.

The concession agreements for two container terminal operators, PSA Antwerp and Antwerp Gateway included a minimum number of containers that must be handled each year. When the two companies did not reach this minimum between 2009 and 2012 they were due to pay compensation to the authority. However, the authority retroactively reduced the minimum requirement, thereby reducing the compensation to be paid, the Commission said.  

Following a complaint from a competitor, the Commission will look at whether a private investor would have reduced its compensation in this way. If not, the reduction could count as state aid and the Commission must confirm whether that aid could be justified under state aid rules, it said.

An in-depth investigation of this sort does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation, the Commission said. It also allows third parties to submit comments.

European commissioner for competition Margrethe Vestager said in October that the European Commission will continue enquiries into tax ruling practices in all EU member states and may open new cases if it sees "indications" that rules are not being complied with.