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Business events: Italy given nod for $520m compensation scheme

Business events companies in Italy could have some of their Covid-19 losses wiped out under a €520m compensation scheme given the go-ahead by EU competition watchdogs.

The European Commission has approved, under EU State aid rules, the funding package, which will compensate companies in the trade fairs and congress sector for the effects of lockdown.

Commission executive VP Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The measures that the Italian government had to take to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic required trade fairs and congress operators to stop their activities, resulting in considerable losses for them as well as for their service providers.

“This €520 million scheme will enable Italy to compensate these companies for the damage suffered. We continue working in close cooperation with member states to find workable solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, in line with EU rules”.

Under the scheme, beneficiaries will be entitled to compensation in the form of direct grants for part of the damages incurred between 9 March and 14 June 2020 and between 24 October 2020 and 14 June 2021, periods during which, under the restrictive measures in place, events were not allowed.

The Italian authorities have said that they will ensure no overcompensation will occur by setting the damage based on the net losses incurred by each beneficiary because of the pandemic, ensuring that no individual beneficiary receives more in compensation than it suffered as damage and that any payment in excess of the actual damage is recovered.

Rules allow the commission to approve state aid measures granted by member states to compensate specific companies or sectors for damage directly caused by ‘exceptional occurrences’.

The commission ruled that the coronavirus outbreak was such an exceptional occurrence, as it is an extraordinary, unforeseeable event ‘having a significant economic impact’.

It found that the Italian measure will compensate damage directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the envisaged compensation does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage.

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