EU TAKES GREECE TO COURT OVER HELLENIC SHIPYARDS AID
Associated Press 04/14/10 3:20 AM PDT BRUSSELS — The European Commission said Wednesday it would take Greece to court to force Hellenic Shipyards to repay the Greek government some euro230 million plus interest in illegal subsidies.
EU regulators say Greece broke state aid rules with a series of payments, loans and guarantees to the troubled former state-owned shipyard between 1996 and 2002 that it failed to clear with EU authorities.
The European Court of Justice, the EU´s highest judicial authority, could ultimately order Greece to collect the money under threat of daily fines.
Athens also sold a 49 percent stake in Hellenic to its employees for euro24 million over 12 years. The EU said Greece never collected that money and gave these shares away to workers for free.
Loans and guarantees from the state and a state-owned bank to the yard were also provided at either below market price or at a time when the company was in such financial trouble that no normal lender would have given it money, the EU said.
Hellenic is now owned by Germany´s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems which is planning to sell a majority stake to shipbuilder Abu Dhabi Mar, or ADM, the Greek government said last month. ADM would control 75.1 percent of Hellenic Shipyards SA and ThyssenKrupp would retain 24.9 percent of the company.
ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems is engaged in a dispute with the Greek government over submarine construction and upgrade programs with the Greek Navy worth more than euro2 billion.
Based in Skaramangas outside Athens, Hellenic builds and repairs commercial vessels and also fixes and builds ships and submarines for the Greek navy.