Rothschild Forming Consortium For Alitalia

January 9, 2007

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Investment bank Rothschild is working on a consortium of investors who aim to bid for a stake in Alitalia that Rome is putting up for sale, a source close to Rothschild said on Tuesday, confirming press reports.

Asked whether the bank was looking at forming a consortium for the ailing airline's privatization, the source said: "Yes".

The Italian government has opened the bidding process for the sale of at least 30.1 percent of its 49.9 percent stake in Alitalia and will accept expressions of interests until January 29.

Several newspapers said on Tuesday the Rothschild-led consortium for the airline would include Italian as well as two US funds.

Smaller Italian airline Meridiana, which is controlled by Prince Karim Aga Khan, is also expected to put in a bid for Alitalia, according to press reports.

Last month, Meridiana bought 30 percent of fellow carrier Eurofly.

Little-known Italian financier and consultant Paolo Alazraki said last week he was working with 16 unidentified investors to study a bid for Alitalia, the first open expression of interest in the carrier.

Alitalia, which has a market capitalization of about EUR1.47 billion (USD$1.91 billion), has not made an operating profit in the last five years.

Long-term potential suitor Air France has so far made no comment on the Alitalia sale. The two airlines own a 2 percent stake in each other.

(Reuters)