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Alitalia’s Board Says Yes to Etihad’s 49% Stake

Skift Take

Translated from the Italian, their statement actually read “We really have no choice, do we?”

— Jason Clampet

The board of struggling Italian airline Alitalia has approved a tie-up proposal with the Emirati carrier Etihad Airways.

Alitalia chairman Roberto Colaninno and chief executive Gabriele Del Torchio are charged with negotiating details of the deal with the Abu Dhabi airline.

Etihad has for months been negotiating to buy up to 49pc of the stricken Italian flag carrier, which is facing bankruptcy.

But talks have have stumbled over Alitalia’s heavy debt load and forecast cuts to some 2,200 jobs, out of a total of 12,800, as part of the deal.

Officials in northern Italy have also raised concerns over the potential impact on Milan’s Malpensa airport, which they fear could be seriously penalised by the deal.

Detailed talks on all those issues were set to continue despite the green light.

Mr Del Torchio, quoted by Italian news agency ANSA, said after Friday’s talks that negotiations with banks on Alitalia’s debt burden were “continuing in the right direction”.

“It takes time, since it involves a large sum. But everyone clearly wants to reach a solution with Etihad.”

On the jobs front, new talks between Alitalia management and unions were set for Monday, Italian media said.

Italian transport minister Maurizio Lupi warned earlier this week that negotiations would have to be wrapped up by mid-July on the tie-up with Etihad, which he said was prepared to invest up to €1.25bn in Alitalia by 2018.

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