Business in Brief
French state aid
The European Commission on Friday (9 March) announced that it had ordered the recovery of €642 million in restructuring aid that France paid between 2001 and 2008 to Sernam, a transport and logistics firm owned by SNCF, France’s state-owned railway company. The Commission deems the funding to be incompatible with EU state-aid rules and gave Sernam, which has since been privatised, an “unfair economic advantage”.
The European Investment Bank on 8 March signed an agreement to provide €130m to the Electricity Authority of Cyprus for a new production unit to enhance electricity supply in the country.
The European Central Bank on 8 March decided to keep interest rates unchanged, at the historic low of 1% for its main refinancing rate. Mario Draghi, its president, said that he expected inflation in the eurozone to stay above the bank’s target of just below 2% throughout 2012.
The Commission yesterday (14 March) invited comments on the commitments offered by Siemens and Areva to deal with concerns that they may have infringed EU antitrust rules. The Commission believes that EU rules may be infringed by an agreement between the two companies not to compete on nuclear technology markets.
The European Union’s external current account had a surplus of €4.4 billion in the last three months of 2011, compared with a deficit of €21.4bn in the fourth quarter of 2010 according to Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office.
Annual inflation in the eurozone stood at 2.7% in February, unchanged from the previous month, according to figures released by Eurostat yesterday. This compares to a rate of 2.4% in the same month last year. Across the whole EU, inflation stood at 3% last month, up from 2.9% in January.