15 Jul 2016

European Commission rules on Italian state aid case

In an important decision on state aid, the Commission cleared public financing for Italian ground handler Airport Handling and found no economic continuity with SEA Handling.

EC makes State Aid ruling jorisvo

The European Commission has ruled that a €25 million capital injection into the Italian company Airport Handling from its state-owned parent company, SEA, was carried out on terms acceptable to a market investor and thus involved no state aid within the meaning of EU rules. This is one of the first state aid cases in which the Commission had to assess the existence of economic continuity between the recipient of aid which had been declared incompatible by the Commission in a previous decision and a new company with the same shareholders as the initial recipient.


Airport Handling is a ground handling operator at Milan's Malpensa and Linate airports. It had taken over part of the assets, clients and workforce of SEA Handling, another ground handling company controlled by SEA which used to operate at the Milan airports, and in relation to which the Commission in December 2012 had concluded that it had received around €359 million of unlawful state aid. 

Different conditions

The Commission needed to assess in its investigation whether any advantage from the unlawful aid received by SEA Handling had been passed on to Airport Handling (so-called 'economic continuity'). In this regard, the Commission concluded that there was no economic continuity between SEA Handling and Airport Handling, in essence because their operating conditions differed materially. As a result, Airport Handling was not liable to pay back unlawful aid granted by Italy to SEA Handling, and the obligation to repay the aid remains with SEA Handling. 

Van Bael & Bellis 

SEA was represented by Van Bael & Bellis partners Fabrizio Di Gianni and Jean-François Bellis and associates Aldo Scalini and Francesco Pili.