Investors To Put EUR1 Bln Into Alitalia - Report

August 6, 2008

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Alitalia will get EUR1 billion euros from private investors as part of a plan to save the troubled Italian carrier, newspaper Il Giornale reported on Wednesday without citing sources -- up from previous media figures.

The paper, which is owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's brother, said the investors would take part in the rescue plan being drawn up by government-appointed adviser, Intesa Sanpaolo, each putting in EUR50 million - EUR100 million.

Figures cited previously in newspapers have been around EUR700 million - EUR800 million.

Il Giornale said the plan would seek to increase Alitalia's 40 percent share of the domestic market, taking in smaller domestic rival Air One's 22 percent share.

The newspaper said Air One's head, Carlo Toto, could get a 30 percent stake in the combined group in return and become chairman or vice-chairman. Alternatively, he could sell the airline to the new company and reinvest in it part of the proceeds -- which Il Giornale said could be up to EUR400 million.

Separately, Il Sole 24 Ore reported that Lufthansa was seen as a preferred partner for a new salvaged Alitalia instead of former suitor Air France-KLM, because it intends to focus more on a Milan airport, which Alitalia snubbed as a hub for Rome as part of its restructuring plan.

It said talks on an alliance would begin in mid-August, citing "authoritative people" at the bank.

Intesa Sanpaolo is trying to put together a rescue plan for the near-bankrupt airline after Berlusconi made it an election pledge in April to find an Italian buyer instead of Air France-KLM, whose case was approved by the previous government.

Italy's battered airline only remains airborne thanks to a EUR300 million cash injection from the current government.

Berlusconi's government has decided to put off any decisions on Alitalia's fate until after the August recess to avoid strikes by unions unhappy with eventual plans to salvage the airline, sources close to the matter said on Tuesday.

Alitalia said in a statement on Tuesday it had postponed a board meeting to approve its first-half results to August 29 from Friday, without specifying a reason.

A company source said the airline is still waiting for the Italian government to decide whether it ought to file for bankruptcy -- as the plan by Intesa Sanpaolo is expected to suggest as a first step.