EU's Almunia says he awaits Alitalia notice of deal

Competition commissioner won't comment on airline pact

(ANSA) - Brussels, September 3 - The European Union's Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said Wednesday that he is waiting for formal notice of the deal between troubled Italian airline Alitalia and Etihad Airways before judging whether it meets competition rules. Until then, said Almunia, he won't offer an opinion on the pact which the parties finalized last month and will see Abu Dhabi-based Etihad invest an estimated 560 million euros in struggling Alitalia.
    The deal still requires requlatory approvals.
    The deal is expected to keep the Italian carrier alive while providing State-owned Etihad with greater access to lucrative routes in Europe.
    But critics, including competing airlines, have complained that the deal contravenes EU regulations concerning State aid.
    Competing airlines including International Airlines Group (IAG), which includes the airlines Iberia and British Airways, threatened legal action last October after a separate bailout package for Alitalia which the carriers said constituted State assistance.
   

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