Cracking the State aid individual economic advantage requirement on the Portuguese train tender

On my previous post about *that* train tender in Portugal, I argued that it was quite possible the contract involved a State Aid angle but stopped short of making a more definitive or certain claim. This was due to the issue of the economic advantage gained by the preferred bidder (consortium led by Alstom) where all other tender participants could have obtained the same benefit. The fact of the matter is that no other tenderer - as far as I know - offered to assemble trains in the maintenance shed that is to be built for the performance of the contract. So why would the others miss the opportunity that the Alstom-led consortium spotted?

To answer that question one needs to understand what else is based in the same space, ie the Parque Oficinal De Guifões, just outside Porto. This is the same physical space where CP (the contracting authority) currently has a maintenance facility. Turns out there is another company (or companies) based there already, namely Nomad Tech. I confirmed this information based on a job offering that stated "[t]he workplace is on Nomad Tech facilities at Matosinhos, located on the Parque Oficinal de Guifões, Rua do Ferroviário, 4460-020, Guifões, Portugal." Nomad Tech is a joint venture between CP and Nomad Digital. The similarities and connections do not end here, though.

Nomad Tech's general manager is Nuno Freitas, who between 2019 and September 2021 was CP's President (or CEO in international parlance). Since the tender for the train contract was launched in December 2021 and is the largest the company ever put out, it is fair to say that the tender development happened under his watch. Furthermore, as CP president he is on the record pushing for a renaissance in the manufacturing of trains in Portugal (here and here) with his view being that a train factory should be built…in Guifoes. Back in 2021, while leading CP, Nuno Freitas had to field questions about a contract being awarded directly to Nomad Tech since he had at a time a 7% share in the company with CP owning 35% of it.

But the coincidences do not end there. Turns out that Nomad Digital is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alstom after being acquired in January 2017. And where are they based in Portugal, according to their website? No points for guessing: at the Parque Oficinal De Guifões. This means both Nomad Tech and/or Nomad Digital have at the very least people or teams based at the same physical space where the maintenance shed is to be built and that could be used for the manufacturing of the trains.

Therefore, I think my conclusion is thus that from a State aid perspective one tenderer stood to benefit more than the others by taking on the opportunity of manufacturing the trains in the maintenance shed. In addition, since Alstom already has a large train manufacturing plant just outside Barcelona, it is not as if they need a long term facility to build the trains in Iberia and having a temporary one would just be perfectly convenient. In short, the factual situation appears to imply that the option of manufacturing trains in Guifões would be more advantageous for the consortium led by Alstom than any of the others.