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Letta's office rebuts FT's protectionist jibe over Alitalia

Financial daily accuses govt of sending contradictory signals

14 October, 11:20
Letta's office rebuts FT's protectionist jibe over Alitalia (ANSA) - Rome, October 14 - Premier Enrico Letta's office on Monday rejected criticism from British daily the Financial Times that the government's moves to save Alitalia from bankruptcy showed it had taken a protectionist stance.

The loss-making airline was saved from the danger of defaulting on its big debts on Friday when its board members approved a big government-led bailout, featuring a 300-million-euro 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 FT said it would be better to let Alitalia's biggest shareholder, Air France-KLM, take outright control. The Dutch-French company is the owner of a 25% stake.

"Industrial protectionism is back in vogue in Rome. It is not a pretty sight," read an editorial in the FT. "Rome's strategy for Alitalia sends a contradictory message. "Saying the country is open for business is easy. Sticking to this when a foreign company knocks at Italy's doors is what matters".

Letta's office said the allegations were untrue, with Alitalia's shareholders set to vote on the bailout on Monday.

"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".