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Enac head says important to respect EC rules with Alitalia

Authorities warned to be 'vigilant' in investment deal

07 April, 12:47
Enac head says important to respect EC rules with Alitalia (ANSA) - Rome, April 7 - European regulations concerning airline investment and control are important in the case of the UAE's Etihad Airways and Alitalia, and must be carefully followed, the president of Italy's national civil aviation authority said Monday.

Vito Riggio, president of Enac, was commenting on reports that the European Commission is closely watching a proposed investment by Etihad in Italian flag-bearer Alitalia.

Last week, the EC warned Italian authorities to be sure to follow EU rules on ownership and control of European companies, and investments involving carriers from countries outside of Europe.

Riggio suggested that this was appropriate in the case of Etihad's proposed deal with Alitalia, as it involves several subsidiary carriers as well.

"It's the first time that a company outside Europe enters (such a deal with) a large European company," said Riggio on the sidelines of a seminar. "It's correct that the Commission will present the rules of the game and the players respect them," he added.

The Abu Dhabi-based airline is expected to make a formal offer to buy as much as a 40% stake in its Italian counterpart, the equivalent of a much-needed capital injection of 350 million euros.

The Gulf carrier is vying to broaden its network in Europe.

Etihad has been expanding aggressively into Europe and Alitalia would give it a further foothold in a lucrative market.

After buying 29% of Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest airline, in 2011, Etihad has taken stakes in carriers across the world, including Air Serbia, Aer Lingus, Darwin Airlines, Virgin Australia, Jet Airways and Air Seychelles. "The warning emphasizes that companies outside Europe may not have the majority in European companies," Riggio said.

On Thursday, Alitalia CEO Gabriele Del Torchio said the due diligence phase with Etihad was almost complete.