Alitalia has been drinking at the last chance saloon for the past couple of years and it finally looks like the bartender is about to call time.
Alitalia SpA started bankruptcy proceedings for the second time in a decade after workers rejected job cuts and concessions linked to a 2 billion-euro ($2.2 billion) recapitalization plan aimed at salvaging the cash-strapped Italian airline.
Shareholders voted unanimously to file for special administration, the carrier said in a statement following a meeting on Tuesday. Under Italian law, the government will have to provide stop-gap funds to maintain operations and will appoint supervisors to turn around the carrier or order its liquidation.
With the move, the board of directors have “acknowledged the serious economic and financial situation of the company,” the company said in the statement.
The administrators will take over the business and present a new strategy that may entail asset sales, reduced operations and job cuts aimed at making the airline viable within two years. If a turnaround isn’t possible the administrators may order the carrier to be liquidated.
Alitalia, whose major shareholders are Abu-Dhabi based Etihad Airways PJSC and Italian banks, last week said it had exhausted all options to stay solvent after workers nixed a recapitalization plan involving 1,600 job cuts. Alitalia, which has 12,500 employees, has been stumbling in the wake of a previous bankruptcy in 2008.
Italian finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan said last week that the government will not pump more cash into boosting the airline’s capital. Alitalia is “a private company” and its fate is “in the hands of shareholders and management,” Padoan told lawmakers in Rome on Thursday. Economic Development Minister Carlo Calenda on Apr. 30 said he hopes the carrier can be sold as “a whole, not in pieces.”
Alitalia’s years of underperformance have diminished its standing within the Italian economy and the aviation industry. The carrier’s share of the Italian market slumped to 18 percent as of 2015 from 23 percent in 2007, according to an analysis by Ugo Arrigo and Andrea Giuricin of Milan Bicocca University. Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest discount carrier, now ranks No. 1 with a 23 percent share, up from 12 percent a decade earlier.
The Italian airline had a net loss of 199 million euros in 2015, the last year for which it has published figures. The carrier had lost almost 3 billion euros since it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, the study shows. The special administrators will have 180 days to come up with a new plan, with a possible extension of 90 days. The process, available for large insolvent companies, is aimed at protecting a company’s assets and workers through reorganization.
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Photo credit: An Alitalia aircraft tail. The carrier is hoping to avoid liquidation. Leandro Ciuffo / Alitalia