Rescue package put to Alitalia's shareholders
Competitors say EU must halt state aid for Italian carrier14 October, 19:59
(ANSA) - Fiumicino, October 14 - As shareholders met Monday to vote on a financial aid package for the troubled Italian airline Alitalia, competitors called on the European Union to halt any government aid and rumours circulated about potential new partnerships.
The shareholders' vote centred on a financial package that includes a 300-million-euro capital increase for the loss-making Italian flag-carrier.
Alitalia had been narrowly saved from the danger of defaulting on its big debts last Friday when its board members approved a major government-led bailout, featuring the capital increase and loans worth 200 million euros.
One of the lead players in the capital increase is Italy's state-owned postal company, Poste Italiane, which is reportedly making a 75-million-euro contribution.
The capital increase met with wide approval, including the endorsement of Alitalia's largest shareholder, Air France-KLM, according to other board members.
"We have approved the increase (of capital), according to plans", said board member Maurizio Traglio following Friday's board meeting.
According to Traglio everyone present at that meeting approved the measure, including Air France-KLM, which holds 25% of shares in Alitalia.
It was not clear what the next step will be for Air France-KLM and its involvement with struggling Alitalia.
But on Monday, British Airways cried foul and demanded that the EU intervene in the capital plans, saying that state aid for Alitalia would contravene regulations governing state assistance to businesses.
"We expect the European Commission to take action to suspend such aid (which is) manifestly illegal," said International Airlines Group (IAG), the holding company that owns British Airways, Iberia and Vueling.
It also claimed to be historically opposed to public involvement in the private sector, saying it amounts to protectionism which it said "undermines competition and encourages those airlines... that are not in step with economic reality".
British newspaper the Financial Times sounded a similar note earlier in the day when it wrote that a better solution would be to let the Dutch-French company Air France-KLM take outright control.
"Industrial protectionism is back in vogue in Rome. It is not a pretty sight," read the editorial in the FT. However, Premier Enrico Letta's office said those allegations were untrue.
"It's not protectionism, it's the opposite," government sources told ANSA. "The Alitalia operation aims to get to negotiations for a merger with an international partner in conditions for it to be possible to have positive outcomes". Meanwhile, Russian carrier Aeroflot said Monday that it is not interesting in buying a stake in Alitalia.
"Currently, we are not investigating any possible purchase of shares in Alitalia," said Irina Dannenberg, a spokeswoman for Aeroflot. However, the Russian carrier could be interested in some other form of partnership with Alitalia, sources told ANSA.