Commission approves amended restructuring plan of Austrian bank ÖVAG

Commission approves amended restructuring plan of Austrian bank ÖVAG

The FINANCIAL -- The European Commission has found the amended restructuring plan of Österreichische Volksbanken AG (ÖVAG) and the Volksbanken-Verbund (Verbund) to be in line with EU state aid rules.

The Austrian Volksbanken sector consists of a central institute, ÖVAG, and the Verbund, which includes over 50 primary banks and other affiliates. The Commission concluded in particular that the amendments will fundamentally restructure the Austrian Volksbanken sector in order to make it viable in the long-term without further state support. The changes became necessary after an assessment by the European Central Bank (ECB) identified a capital shortfall. This assessment was carried out in October 2014, in the context of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM).

In June 2015 Austria notified changes to the restructuring plan of ÖVAG that the Commission had originally approved in September 2012 including public support to ÖVAG. These changes were necessary because an assessment by the ECB/SSM in 2014 revealed a capital shortfall of €865 million for the Volksbanken sector, according to the European Commission.

ÖVAG and the primary banks decided to overcome the capital shortfall through a significant structural transformation. On 3 July 2015, the core functions of ÖVAG as the Verbund's central organisation will be transferred to Volksbank Wien-Baden, one of the primary banks. At the same time, the remaining non-core assets in ÖVAG will be separated from the Verbund to be wound-down under the name of "Immigon" and will relinquish its banking licence, so that Immigon no longer has to meet the capital requirements for banks. The 51 primary banks in the Verbund will be merged into 10 bigger institutions to reap synergies and have unlimited liability for the obligations of the Verbund and the new central organisation. Thus, the entire Verbund becomes the beneficiary of the state aid granted in 2012 to ÖVAG, as its economic successor.

The Commission assessed the new restructuring plan on the basis of EU rules on state aid for the restructuring of banks during the crisis. The Commission concluded that the plan will enable the new Volksbanken-Verbund to return to long-term viability without additional public money as a smaller and more focused group.

Under the 2012 state aid decision ÖVAG had been under an obligation to repay to Austria the outstanding €300 million of participation capital to remedy the distortions created by the public support received. Given that ÖVAG/Immigon will be wound down, Austria instead committed to include in the amended restructuring plan a payment schedule for the Verbund, which will now repay the outstanding amount by the end of 2023.