Air France-KLM defers choice on help for Alitalia
PARIS - Reuters
Air France-KLM has deferred a decision on whether to offer more help to struggling carrier Alitalia. AFP photoAir France-KLM deferred a decision on whether to offer more help for struggling Alitalia this week, saying it needed more information about its Italian partner’s finances.
Air France-KLM said a board meeting - held hours after Italy opened the door to a takeover by inviting the Franco-Dutch carrier to double its 25 percent stake - had discussed its own management’s view of loss-making Alitalia’s predicament.
“The board considered it vital to hear the information that Alitalia’s executive management should provide at a forthcoming meeting of the Italian company’s board of directors,” Air France-KLM said in a statement afterwards.
Alitalia’s board is due to meet on Thursday.
The terse declaration dampened speculation of an imminent Franco-Dutch bid for Alitalia, which faces an estimated cash shortfall of some 400 million euros ($540 million).
‘Strategic’ asset for Air France
Italian Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi said earlier that Rome would not oppose an increase in Air France-KLM’s stake to 50 percent.
“I expect that Air France will strongly reaffirm that Alitalia is a strategic asset for Air France, and therefore that there will be a strengthening of Air France’s role,” he said on the sidelines of a conference in Milan.
“We ask that Air France does not consider Alitalia and (Rome airport) Fiumicino as an appendix, but a strategic asset for the development of European air transport.”
Lupi is a political ally of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi who opposed proposals to have Air France-KLM take control of Alitalia in 2008, and instead asked a group of Italian investors to take over the loss-making carrier.
While Rome is pushing for extra investment, it could be a hard sell with the Franco-Dutch firm’s shareholders and workers, as it cuts costs and jobs.