EU Court Orders Italy To Recoup $400M From Alcoa

BRUSSELS (AP) -- The European Union's top court on Thursday ordered Italy to comply with a directive by the bloc's executive arm to fully reclaim 295 million euros ($400 million) of state aid payments that were made to U.S. aluminum giant Alcoa.

The Court of Justice ruled that Italy must "take all measures necessary" to recover the sum owed "without delay." It said Rome has failed to comply with a European Commission decision to reclaim the money in its entirety by March 2010.

Italy granted Alcoa Inc.'s local affiliate, Alcoa Trasformazioni, preferential electricity prices for two production sites over several years, but the commission in 2009 ruled that was market-distorting state aid.

Italy has said the subsidy amounted to 257 million euros, plus 38 million euros in interest.

Alcoa, with annual revenues of almost $24 billion, says in regulatory filings that it started paying back the sum in installments of 50 million euros each, with the last one due this December, bringing the total sum to 300 million euros.

Alcoa has since shut down or idled the two Italian production sites, citing uncertain prospects for economically viable long-term power supply, rising raw materials costs and falling aluminum demand.

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