The Fund for Support to the Solvency of Strategic Companies managed by the State Society for Industrial Participations (SEPI) accumulates more requests for help than known so far. This is what the Government has just revealed, after the first year of life of this aid instrument for large companies affected by the pandemic and considered strategic.
In a parliamentary response dated July 22, one year after the entry into force of the regulation that regulates the operation of the fund, the Executive explains that “to date, 66 requests for temporary public support have been received from the Solvency Fund “.
Those 66 requests are well above the fifty that had transpired so far and are equivalent to one request every 5.5 days in that one-year period. There are more than a dozen companies that have requested to benefit from this instrument, without their name having come to light until now.
In his response, the Executive assures that “the objectives for which the Fund was created are being met” and that “the greatest efforts are being made to process applications in the shortest time possible, and there is no forecast on the number of end of operations to be approved or the total amount to be executed, as it will depend on the amount of the operations finally authorized “.
The fund was created in July 2020 with an initial endowment of 10 billion euros and the regulations governing its operation came into force on July 24 of last year. To date, the Government has only approved only six aid packages for as many companies for a total amount of 1,105 million, which represents around 11% of total funds.
These are the bailouts for Air Europa (475 million), Plus Ultra (53 million), Ávoris (320 million), Duro Felguera (120 million), Tubos Reunidos (112 million) and Rugui Steel (25 million), the last one that has been granted so far.
Counting the aid already disbursed or requested and these that, as the Government has now revealed, have been requested, requests for a minimum amount of 5,000 million, half of its total endowment, would have been submitted to the fund window. This is a downward estimate, taking into account that, in general, the minimum amount of each operation is 25 million euros.
While in countries like Germany the State is already preparing to divest in some of the rescued companies (Berlin has activated the sale of a first package in Lufthansa, the country’s largest airline), the Spanish fund has been criticized for the slowness in the processing of aid, which slowed down after the uproar for the controversial rescue of the airline Plus Ultra and the opening of a judicial investigation that even blocked part of the funds committed to that company.
This Monday, at the reopening of the course in Congress, the PP deputy Elvira Rodríguez attacked “the inability of the SEPI to distribute all the aid” and again charged against the “nonsense” of the rescue granted to Plus Ultra.
The backlog of requests is such that the Government has asked the EU for an extension of the deadline for requesting aid, which in principle ends on December 31, as it advanced this Monday Expansion, which points out that the request to Brussels not only affects the rescue of companies, but also all kinds of direct aid, including the 7,000 million funds for SMEs and the self-employed or the ICO lines.
Managed by SEPI, a holding company attached to the Ministry of Finance whose presidency was vacant until the appointment of Belén Gualda at the end of March, after the accusation of the former president, Vicente Fernández, in the Aznalcóllar case, the fund only in 2020 granted 15% of the aid it had planned for that year by formalizing only one operation, that of Air Europa.
Last year, the forecast was to provide aid for an amount of 3,000 million, 66% in the form of participative and ordinary loans and the rest in the form of capital, but finally only 475 million were granted, as reported by elDiario.es on 16 August. That day, SEPI announced the appointment of a new director for the entity, Julián Mateos.
In the list of companies whose name has transcended, those of the tourism sector predominate, but there are also industrial or media companies. Of the pending applications, the one that has requested the most money is the Celsa steelmaker, with 700 million. Also noteworthy are Mediapro (300 million), Técnicas Reunidas engineering, the last to announce that it has requested funds, with 290 million, Abengoa, with 249 million, or the Villar Mir group, with 240 million.
The purpose of the fund is to provide temporary public support to strengthen business solvency through the granting of participating loans, subordinated debt, subscription of shares or other capital instruments, to non-financial companies that are experiencing temporary difficulties as a result of the health crisis and that are considered strategic for the national or regional productive fabric.
The minimum aid is 25 million per beneficiary, except in duly justified exceptional cases. The reimbursement of the State participation must be accompanied by the recovery and stabilization of the economy, with a repayment schedule based on the situation and market prospects of the applicant company.