EU Clears Italian Postal Service's Alitalia Investment

February 6, 2015

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The European Commission has concluded that an investment by Italy's state-owned postal service in Alitalia did not constitute state aid and has closed its preliminary investigation into the matter.

Poste Italiane invested EUR€75 million in Alitalia in 2013 as part of a EUR€500 million rescue package to keep the airline flying while it sought a foreign investor.

Alitalia has since agreed a deal with Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways.

The Poste investment was questioned at the time, with IAG, which owns British Airways and Spain's Iberia and Vueling, calling the move illegal and protectionist and asking the Commission to intervene.

In a statement on Friday, the Commission said that Poste had made its investment under the same terms and conditions as two private operators who were in a comparable situation.

"Public interventions can be considered free of state aid within the meaning of EU rules when they are made on terms that a private operator would have accepted under market conditions," it said.

Having had no response from from previous complainants within a set deadline, the Commission said it has now closed the preliminary probe.

Etihad bought almost half of Alitalia last year in a rescue plan involving heavy job losses.

The deal is expected to give Alitalia money to invest in more profitable long-haul routes and make it less reliant on domestic and regional services where it has struggled to compete against low-cost airlines and high-speed trains.

(Reuters)