Alitalia Expected To Pick Partner This Week

Jan 5, 2009
Martial Tardy/Brussels martial_tardy@hotmail.com

Alitalia is this week expected to choose the foreign partner that will contribute to its rescue and privatization, ahead of the Italian company's rebirth as a new entity on Jan. 13.

Air France-KLM and Lufthansa are competing to acquire a 25% stake in the carrier.

Italian industry sources indicate that the French group is in the lead, but Lufthansa benefits from strong support within the government led by Silvio Berlusconi, as the German carrier has pledged to maintain Alitalia's dual hub system.

Berlusconi's right-wing allies from the Northern League have been fiercely defending the continuation of Alitalia's full operations at Milan Malpensa Airport.

"The ideal partner (for Aitalia) must be Lufthansa, as it is the only company able to guarantee activities and international operations in both hubs--Milan Malpensa and Rome Fiumicino," said the League on Jan. 5. Umberto Bossi, the League's leader, is scheduled to meet Silvio Berlusconi on Jan. 7 in a last-ditch attempt to tilt the balance in favor of Lufthansa.

French sources indicate that Air France has increased its offer to EUR 300 million for 25% of Alitalia's activities, up from EUR 250 million in a previous bid. In addition, Air France and Alitalia are both members of SkyTeam and have been co-operating since 2001. The increased offer reflects the integration of Alitalia with the activities of Carlo Toto's AirOne, the sources said.

Toto participated in a consortium of Italian investors, Compagnia Aerea Italiana (CAI), which bought Alitalia' flight operations as well as selected assets on Dec. 12 for EUR 1.052 billion.

CAI took on the Alitalia name and is scheduled to start operating the airline formally under that 'new' identity from next Tuesday.

After months of tense talks and conflicts, Alitalia unions accepted a relaunch of Alitalia with 10,150 employees, down from 19,800 today. The company will operate 670 flights daily, compared with 1,050 previously.

Photo: Alitalia

AVIATION WEEK Copyright 2008, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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