Three Non-Binding Offers For Alitalia

April 16, 2007

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All three shortlisted bidders for loss-making Italian airline Alitalia presented their non-binding offers by Monday's deadline, the government said without revealing details of the bids.

The bidders include Russia's Aeroflot and Alitalia's closest domestic rival, Air One.

The third bidding consortium includes the US private equity group Texas Pacific Group, which recently made a EUR3.4 billion euro (USD$4.6 billion) bid for Spain's Iberia.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi, speaking earlier on Monday, said no additional bidders would be allowed to join the state's auction of at least 39.9 percent of the state-controlled carrier.

Anyone buying this minimum would have to launch a full bid for Italy's largest airline under Italian takeover law.

"We will not change in any case the rules of the game while the match is in play," Prodi said in an interview during a trip to Japan. He added that no other firms had asked to join anyway "as far as I know."

There had been speculation that Air France-KLM, Alitalia's international partner, would join at the last minute despite repeated denials from the French carrier.

The Economy Ministry said on Monday it would review the bids based not only on their price but also other factors, including the industrial plan being put forward to turn around the troubled carrier.

It noted that bidders would be able to modify their preliminary offers, given that they will soon receive more information about the airline during due diligence work.

The ministry did not offer a deadline for when the bidders would need to present their final, binding offers.

Alitalia, Europe's fifth-largest airline, is losing over EUR1 million (USD$1.3 million) a day as strikes and high fuel costs weigh. It has not posted an operating profit since 1998, despite several restructuring efforts.

Losses before taxes tripled to EUR405.2 million in 2006.

(Reuters)