COMMISSION CLEARS AID FOR ITALIAN BANK WITH CONDITIONS.
Wednesday 17 November 1999
The European Commission said on November 10 that it would clear Euro 2.4 billion in aid from the Italian Government to Banco di Sicilia on condition its parent company, Mediocredito Centrale, is privatised before June 2000. The Commission said in a statement that Banco di Sicilia must close down part of its branch network though before the end of next year and not open new outlets for a further three years. Banco di Sicilia and Sicilcassa, which Banco di Sicilia took over after it went bankrupt in 1997, received a total of 4.618 trillion Lire (USD2.48 billion) in state aid. The Commission had already cleared in March the injection of one trillion Lire by Italy's deposit guarantee fund. The EU executive said it believed that important concessions were essential to compensate Banco di Sicilia's competitors for the distortions to competition created by state intervention in the banking sector. Banco di Sicilia offered to sell or close 55 branches, about 9% of its network, and pledged not to open new branches in Sicily for the next three years. The Italian Government had also promised to privatise Mediocredito by June 2000 "in an open, transparent and non-discriminatory procedure ..." the Commission said.