Etihad aims to buy 49% stake in Alitalia, board OKs increase

Emirates company confirms deal; govt, others interested

20 December, 11:00

    Etihad aims to buy 49% stake in Alitalia Etihad aims to buy 49% stake in Alitalia

    (ANSAmed) - ROME - Etihad Airways is in advanced talks with Alitalia to buy a 49% stake in Italy's cash-strapped national carrier. However, the government has assured other companies are interested in a strategic alliance with Alitalia.

    Meanwhile a capital increase worth 300 million euros has been wrapped up with Poste Italiane giving their green light to the deal, which depended on reaching a 225 million threshold from partners.

    The board is meeting on Friday morning to ratify the operation and schedule an assembly.

    A potential deal with Etihad is not officially on the meeting's agenda.

    After days of unconfirmed rumours, the Abu Dhabi airline confirmed it was in talks with Alitalia in a short statement, adding it had no further comments on the negotiations. But sources quoted by the Financial Times online said talks are at an advanced stage and the Abu Dhabi carrier could become the largest shareholder in Alitalia under the deal with a stake of up to 49% in the Italian carrier and a capital injection of as much as 350 million euros.

    Abu Dhabi's statements were welcomed by the government and unions. Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi said 'Etihad's interest confirmed the strategic role played by our country, Rome's hub and Alitalia', and is an 'important sign which shows the road taken by the government two months ago to safeguard the strategic role of air transport was the right one'.

    Unions also welcomed Etihad's interest. 'This interest and the possibility of Etihad's entry is of great relevance because it represents a very important chance to go from a scenario of deep trouble to a perspective of re-launching, in terms of organization and employment,' the company, said Giovanni Luciano of Fit Cisl union, who promised the union is ready to play its part.

    Mauro Rossi, of another leading union Fit Cgil, said 'the potential positive deal with an industrial partner would strengthen the Italian company which is a point of reference for the whole sector'.

    Claudio Tarlazzi of Uiltrasporti said Etihad's acquisition would be a 'solution for the future of the company'. Ugl Trasporti said the news, if confirmed, would prove that Alitalia and the whole sector attracts competitors.

    Lupi said 'the government is aware big companies have several times been interested in forging a strategic alliance with Alitalia'.

    Meanwhile Alitalia has attained a capital increase worth 300 million.

    On Thursday, Poste Italiane approved the operation with an injection of 75 million.

    'Very positive news', commented Lupi: 'the capital increase in Alitalia was wrapped up in spite of those who thought it could not be concluded or that public resources were necessary: old shareholders invested 225 million and Poste Italiane approved its entry with 75 million and thus the first part of Alitalia's re-launch was concluded'.(ANSAmed).

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