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Italy 'should have told EU in advance' about Alitalia plan

BA has complained package amounts to State aid

16 October, 15:03
Italy 'should have told EU in advance' about Alitalia plan (ANSA) - Brussels, October 16 - Italy should have given the European Union advance notice of the rescue package it orchestrated for Alitalia to ensure it was compatible with European law, the European Commission said Wednesday. "When there are doubts about the nature of the transaction, that is, whether it is State aid or not, the member states would be wise to notify Brussels," said a spokesman for Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

EU anti-trust authorities expected a notification from Italy on decisions about increasing capital in Alitalia, the spokesman added.

"All States are obliged to notify the Commission when it comes to state aid," the spokesman said.

On Monday, shareholders in the troubled carrier unanimously approved an emergency 300-million-euro capital hike to save the airline from bankruptcy. That triggered immediate outrage from the parent company of British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia, the International Airlines Group, which quickly called on the European Commission to intervene, saying the package amounted to State aid and broke EU law.

The capital increase is part of a government-led 500-million-euro rescue package, which also includes 200 million euros in loans, approved by the board last Friday, when the carrier was in danger of defaulting on its big debts within days.

The state-owned post office, Poste Italiane, will buy up to 75 million euros in any unsubscribed shares in the capital increase. Italian banks Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit will guarantee to take a stake worth up to 100 million euros.

The airline's biggest shareholder, France-KLM, backed the capital increase but it is not yet certain whether it will take part in it. The French-Dutch airline owns a 25% stake.

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