The European Union's executive on Monday cleared the takeover of prestigious Irish retailer Arnotts by financial groups Anglo Irish Bank (AIB) and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), even though both banks were nationalized during the financial crisis, dpa reported.
AIB and RBS have been banned from taking over other financial institutions because regulators argue that they would otherwise have an unfair advantage over private-sector rivals.
But the European Commission, the EU's executive, ruled that a joint move by RBS and AIB to restructure Arnotts' debt in return for control should be considered as part of "the ordinary course of business of managing claims," a statement issued in Brussels said.
"The commission therefore concluded that it was compatible with the acquisition bans imposed on Anglo Irish Bank and RBS in the context of the state aid given to both banks," the statement said.
Arnotts runs the oldest department store in Dublin and a number of subsidiary branches. But it ran into financial difficulties during the economic crisis and asked its banks - AIB and Ulster Bank - to restructure its debt. Ulster Bank is owned by RBS.
Both AIB and RBS saw their market value collapse during the financial crisis, and were rescued by the British and Irish governments with massive rescue deals that drove their budgets deep into the red.