Italy would welcome Air France-Alitalia tie-up

RIMINI, Italy - Italy's government on Monday said it would welcome Air France-KLM buying into a reshaped Alitalia, hoping to woo back the French carrier after helping scupper a previous deal between the two airlines.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Wed 27 Aug 2008, 8:11 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 12:00 PM

Italy has cobbled together 16 domestic investors to invest in a reshaped Alitalia to keep it flying for now, but needs to attract a foreign partner like Air France-KLM or Lufthansa to keep the near-bankrupt airline competitive over the long run.

Alitalia, which has not posted a profit since 1999 and whose shares have been suspended since June, has been on the block for 20 months. Italy's two previous attempts to sell it failed.

'If Air France-KLM would like to collaborate with the 'new' Alitalia, we would be pleased,' Infrastructure Minister Altero Matteoli said at a conference in the seaside resort of Rimini, adding that an alliance with Lufthansa or another foreign airline would also be welcome.

Alitalia adviser Intesa Sanpaolo is expected to meet Air France-KLM representatives on Wednesday to outline the latest plan to rescue Alitalia, a source familiar with the matter said.

Air France-KLM abandoned a takeover of Alitalia this year over union opposition and criticism from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was then campaigning for April's national election. It has since said it no longer had plans to buy Alitalia.

EU thumbs up

The government has already won a vote of confidence from EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani over its plans to salvage Alitalia, which had run the risk of irking the EU if it continued offering state support to the carrier.

'The (European) Commission has no option but to view the rescue of Alitalia through private investors in a positive manner,' said Tajani, a former Berlusconi aide. He said it would also boost competition in Europe.

The rescue plan is expected to call for a break-up of the airline into two, followed by a bankruptcy of its troubled units. Italy must modify the law to accommodate the move, and Tajani said the EU was sent a copy of the plans to do so.

Sixteen investors plan to pump as much as 1 billion euros into the healthy parts of Alitalia, another source has said.

The board of one of them -- toll-road operator Atlantia -- will meet on Wednesday to approve investing 100-150 million euros in Alitalia, the road company's CEO Giovanni Castellucci said at the Rimini conference.

Roberto Colaninno, who is expected to become chairman of a new company that groups the new Alitalia investors together, will also present the rescue plan at a Thursday board meeting of his IMMSI holding company.

Augusto Fantozzi, a former finance minister, on Wednesday told reporters he was willing to become a special administrator to oversee Alitalia's partial bankruptcy.

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