Less optimistic on Alitalia closing (4)

Investors biding their time says industry minister

(ANSA) - Rome, February 8 - Industry Minister Carlo Calenda said Thursday he was "less optimistic" on closing a deal for a new buyer for Alitalia before the March 4 general election.
    "I'll make every effort to close before the elections, the electoral schedule is indifferent to me, but it isn't for investors who have pulled back a little to wait and see how the elections turn out," he said. "Alitalia needs an industrial entrepreneur," Celnda said.
    Despite the "excellent" results achieved by three extraordinary commissioners, the minister added, "Alitalia cannot cannot carry on on its own in the long term because it is too small" in a market where giants are operating.
    "So we have to sell it quickly and well," Calenda said.
    On January 24 the Italian government sent the EU notification on Alitalia's bridge loan.
    Sources said January 11 that the European Commission is eyeing a 600 million bridge loan the Italian government gave Alitalia in April 2017, later boosted by 300 million more, after complaints from major rivals that it broke market regulations against State aid.
    Brussels was reportedly in contact with Italian authorities over the loan, the sources said.
    The EC was awaiting notification from the Italian government so it could start assessing the case, they said.
    EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said that the British low-cost carrier is interested in buying "some parts" of Alitalia.
    Lundgren was quoted as saying that "negotiations are taking place with the (Alitalia) commissioners".
    On January 19 French sources told ANSA Alitalia and Air France representatives had a "very cordial" first meeting over a possible takeover of the troubled Italian airline.
    In the meeting, sponsored by Italian Ambassador Giandomenico Magliano, it was decided to give Air France access to Alitalia's data room "so that it may have access to information it did not previously have" on the Italian airline.
    On the basis of the acquisition of new data, sources said, technical teams from both sides will meet shortly to discuss various aspects of the talks.
    It was recently reported that Air France had decided to vie with Lufthansa for Italy's ailing former national carrier - but Air France denied the report.
    Air-France-KLM was reportedly ready to put in a rival bid for the troubled Italian airline, alongside EasyJet, sources said.
    Air France, again, denied this report.
    The US Cerberus investment fund is believed to be the third contender to take over Alitalia.
    Alitalia's government-appointed commissioners met Cerberus representatives in New York last Friday.
    Lufthansa said earlier last month it would only consider taking over Alitalia if "major" restructuring including job and route cuts were made.
    Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr sent a letter to Calenda telling him that the German airline would only be willing to acquire Alitalia after major restructuring.
    "While recognising the valuable measures that have been undertaken to date... we strongly believe that there remains a considerable amount of work to be achieved before Lufthansa would be in the position to enter comprehensively into the next phase of the process," Spohr said in the letter.
    Under Lufthansa control the company would be smaller in terms of both staff and fleet, it said.
    Alitalia was put into extraordinary administration last year after workers voted against a restructuring plan.
    Calenda has said the government is considering three offers for the former flag carrier.