Monday, 7 January 2013

Air France-KLM is in "advanced" talks to take control of Italy's Alitalia by the summer, Rome's Messaggero newspaper reported on Sunday without citing its sources.
Alitalia is owned by CAI, a consortium of investors that bought the then-bankrupt airline in 2008. CAI is already partly owned by Air France-KLM. Alitalia's shareholders can exercise options to trade their shares when a lock-up period ends on January 12.
In May, Air France said it would probably wait until at least 2014 before using its option to take control of Alitalia, in which it has held 25 percent since January 2009.
Air France-KLM has offered shareholders a 20 percent premium on what they paid for the airline in 2008, the newspaper said, probably in Air France-KLM shares. CAI paid a little more than EUR€1 billion to take over Alitalia five years ago.
An Air France-KLM spokesman in Paris declined to comment on the report. Officials at Alitalia did not respond with a comment.
But four-time Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who stopped Air France-KLM's last attempt to buy Alitalia, said he was still against the airline's sale. Berlusconi is behind in the polls for the upcoming February 24-25 national election.
"Our country cannot afford not having its own flagship airline," Berlusconi said on his Facebook page. "If Alitalia had fallen into the hands of the French... many tourists would have ended up visiting the castles in the Loire valley instead of our cities of art."
Berlusconi won the parliamentary election in 2008 promising to keep Alitalia out of foreign hands and to clean the rubbish off the streets of Naples. He is trailing by more than 10 percentage points, current polls show.
Alitalia returned to profit in the third quarter after reporting losses in the first half, booking a net profit of EUR€27 million (USD$35.2 million), down from EUR€70 million the year before.
Net debt rose to EUR€923 million at the end of September, up by EUR€61 million from the end of June.

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