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EU to probe tax deals of French energy firm

By Donal O'Donovan

The European Union has launched an in-depth probe into alleged sweetheart tax agreements received by French utility Engie from the government of Luxembourg.

European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced the move on a trip to Washington DC, where she faced pressure from US policy makers and business leaders over her controversial ruling that US tech icon Apple had received favourable tax terms that amounted to state aid and ordered it to repay €13bn (£11bn) in back taxes in Ireland.

The Republic's government insists no tax is due and said it will challenge the ruling.

Given the timing on her US visit, the move against Engie - formerly GDF Suez - is likely to be seen as a sop to American audiences.

Commissioner Vestager herself linked the cases in a speech delivered in Washington, referring to it after insisting that the Apple ruling was correct.

"Just today, we opened an in-depth investigation into Luxembourg's tax treatment of the French electric utility company GDF Suez group - now known as Engie," she said.

"Our concern is that tax rulings issued by Luxembourg may have given GDF Suez an unfair advantage over other companies, in breach of EU state aid rules."

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