Europe's Competition Commission has asked France to clarify its position with regard to the US$15.2bn refinancing deal with PSA Peugeot Citroen's banks backed by a US$9bn guarantee, raising the possibility the move constitutes a form of State aid.

The French automaker yesterday (20 December) secured agreement aimed at improving liquidity at Banque PSA Finance, the company's lending division, but the arrangement has now attracted the attention of the bureaucrats in Brussels, notably Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia.

"He [Almunia] reminded the French authorities they need to notify the measures to the European Commission," a spokesman for Almunia told just-auto from Brussels.

"This was aid to the restructuring of the Group according to the EC's first analysis and therefore had to be notified and approved by the EC. It is for member States under EU rules...to notify State aid...before it is actually implemented.

"The Commissioner has reminded France they need to do so in this case. We consider according to our analysis the measure is State aid in the meaning of the EU Treaty and therefore it needs an answer."

PSA confined itself to noting a letter had been sent to the French government, but maintained the help was simply a guarantee, not a direct grant.

"It is not a subsidy, it is just a guarantee," a PSA spokeswoman told just-auto from Paris. "It is a guarantee by the State, that is all."