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Clock ticking on deal between airlines Etihad, Alitalia

Del Torchio said to be optimistic about capital injection

27 February, 13:36
Clock ticking on deal between airlines Etihad, Alitalia (ANSA) - Milan, February 27 - Negotiations continued Thursday towards a final deal between Alitalia and the United Arab Emirates' Etihad, which has been scrutinizing the Italian carrier's books. Alitalia Chief Executive Officer Gabriele Del Torchio is said to be "optimistic" about the outlook for the deal because it will be "convenient for both (parties)". Del Torchio said he was pleased with business leader Luca di Montezemolo acting as a facilitator in contacts between the governments of Italy and the United Arab Emirates. "I believe that he is having a positive role and from this point of view, he is surely welcome: everything that can help us to carry out a complex negotiation like this is very useful," said Del Torchio.

Montezemolo, ex-chairman of Fiat and ex-president of industrial employers' group Confindustria, is rumoured to be interested in the job of chairman of Alitalia. Speaking after the presentation of Alitalia's new onboard magazine Ulisse, Del Torchio added that he wants to continue the carrier's partnership through 2017 with Air France-KLM. Eventually, a three-way deal involving Etihad, Alitalia, and Air France-KLM could be possible as something that could benefit all the partners, he added.

For now, completing the deal with Etihad is his top priority, which includes meeting conditions set by the UAE carrier in terms of cleaning up finances and reducing labour costs.

It is expected that nearly 80 million euros can be saved annually with rotating layoffs and another 40 million euros saved through wage cuts.

Other interested parties say there is a good reason why Etihad is conducting its due diligence on Alitalia's books very carefully.

Intesa SanPaolo bank is a primary stakeholder in Alitalia with a 20.5% share.

Chief executive Carlo Messina explained, "Whoever is evaluating acquisitions in general is thinking about restructuring the debt and working on the productive capacity of the company: these elements are part of the negotiations".

Delays that may push the deal's closing to April are not considered a problem.

But just to be safe, Alitalia is also looking at another development plan to woo customers who have left the carrier. "If there is an important area in which we have lost a few passengers in the last decade, it is Northern Italy: we want to do everything to win her back," said Del Torchio. "We are also thinking about Expo 2015, we are assessing new intercontinental routes to Malpensa (airport in Milan)," said Del Torchio, who added that Alitalia is "an Italian, not a Roman business".