By Daniel Hunter

EDF Energy has been ordered to repay €1.4 billion to the French government after the European Commission ruled that the state gave the company illegal tax breaks.

In 1997, the French government gave EDF a tax exemption worth €889m, which the Commission believes gave it an unfair advantage over its competitors.

It is therefore state aid that has strengthened EDF’s position to the detriment of its competitors, without furthering any objective of common interest,” the commission said.

The French government itself received nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

EDF said it "took note" of the ruling and said it would "repay the indicated sums". However, it warned that it would appeal the decision.

In a statement, the Paris-based energy giant said: “EDF contests the existence of illegal state aid and will request, under the reservation of a closer analysis of the ruling, a cancellation by the EU court."