Work is piling up in the rescue fund for strategic companies created by the Government. The Executive has already given the green light to the rescue of Air Europa for 475 million. It has at least a trio of applications (Duro Felguera, Naviera Armas and Ávoris) that are being assessed by the board of the fund managed by the Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industriales (SEPI), according to business sources. And there are also a dozen firms that are collecting preliminary information. That is to say, they are interested in receiving aid and, if they meet the requirements, they will make their formal request.
Among the three companies that have advanced in the process, they have requested 460 million euros, not counting the amount granted to Air Europa. On the one hand there are the 100 million requested by the Asturian engineer Duro Felguera, which is still in the study phase although it is the closest to the resolution of the three, according to sources from the Administration. There is also Naviera Armas, owner of Transmediterránea, which became known in recent days, with a total claimed figure of 120 million, according to sources familiar with the negotiation.
The trio is closed by Ávoris, the travel division of the Barceló group, which expects to receive 240 million from the fund: 51% with a participating loan and 49% with an ordinary one. In this case, it is still in the study phase and the agreement is still far from being finalized, according to Administration sources. The injection of public money, if granted, would serve to carry out the merger in which it is immersed with Halcón Viajes, of Globalia, owned by the Hidalgo family, which has already obtained the help of Air Europa.
Between the amounts that these three companies expect to receive and the amount already granted to the airline, the sum is close to 1,000 million. And the bill will continue to grow in the coming months. Of the 12 that are in the previous annex, according to business sources, there is a tourist firm (which would be added to Air Europa and Ávoris as companies in the sector), and other engineering firms. Of course, the same instances highlight that the majority are medium-sized companies and not as large as those that have been known to date.
The forecast is that in 2021 a greater number of requests will be registered, according to government sources. That is, it is expected that when the results are presented and the accounts are black on white, the ravages of the coronavirus will arrive on boom of applications in the offices of the SEPI. “Common sense says that the flood of applications will arrive at the end of the first quarter of next year,” argue market sources.
The Government, aware of this, does not rule out even expanding the fund’s endowment if the requests exceed the amount available from the beginning (10,000 million). The SEPI, consulted by EL PAÍS, has not clarified the details, amounts or names of companies immersed in the process to request aid from the rescue fund. “For confidentiality reasons we cannot go into particular details. There are certain deadlines that have to be met ”, explains a spokesperson for the company.
In fact, the information on the companies that are immersed in the process is limited. The ministries involved and the SEPI, on the one hand, cannot provide data on the companies that are studying your application, only when aid is given. And companies are only obliged to communicate it once it is granted within an agreed period. Therefore, at the time prior to the study, they do not necessarily have to explain the movements and different interests come into play: the firms that believe it is beneficial to know to keep projects or operations alive and those that consider that if it is reported it would negatively affect their exercise.
Proof of this have been the cases of companies that have rejected – and made it publicly recorded – making the formal request after learning of a possible interest. A change in strategy basically caused by the effect on the market of this intention to benefit from the fund. For example, it happened with the Catalan steelmaker Celsa, as well as with Alsea Iberia (a subsidiary of the homonymous Mexican company and owner of VIPS and Foster’s Hollywood). In the first case, according to business sources, the amount to request was about 200 million, but the company did not make the formal request. “Celsa analyzes the conditions of SEPI and studies whether it is appropriate to take advantage of the temporary public aid offered by the Government,” explained sources from the firm. Something similar to what happened with Alsea Iberia, which withdrew from the SEPI fund after having studied the possibility.
Government sources also remind that not all requests will be granted, as they must undergo an exhaustive preliminary analysis. As explained in the agreement of the Council of Ministers of July 21, the Executive will only grant aid to companies that demonstrate that their economic situation at the end of 2019 was optimal. That is, they were viable companies before the coronavirus. It is also mandatory that they be strategic for the country, that they demonstrate their viability in the medium and long term, with a forecast of reimbursement of state support —with interest—, as well as that they have their headquarters and work centers in Spain. This injection of money by the State is endorsed by Brussels in an exceptional way to try to prevent the fall of viable strategic companies in Europe.
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