Alitalia on Takeover Radar as Jan. 12 Cut-Off Nears

January 9
4:54 PM 2013

Italian carrier Alitalia is a likely candidate for a takeover with a consortium of airline investors, which rescued it four years ago. CAI, a consortium of domestic investors, which paid Alitalia a little over 1 billion euros ($1.30 billion) in 2008- to bail out the airline from serious financial troubles - is bound by a lock-in period that ends on Jan. 12.

CAI is made up of listed and unlisted Italian companies and among the biggest shareholders are Intesa Sanpaolo with 8.9 percent, road operator Atlantia with 8.9 percent and IMMSI, which also controls scooter-maker Piaggio. Reports said some of these investors are now looking to sell their shares.

Reports also suggest that talks are on with long-time stakeholder France-KLM for a total takeover of the airline. The Franco-Dutch group owns 25 percent of the flagship airline. Air France chief Alexandre de Juniac has denied any such move when asked by the media, but there are indications that Air France-KLM has charged the Lazard bank to prepare a bid.

Alitalia's chairman Roberto Colaninno is interested in working out a deal with Air France, although he may not have the support of all shareholders on this count. Colaninno is the head of the CAI consortium.

Air France had made a bid for Alitalia some years ago, but met with stiff political opposition in Italy. It appears that Air France-KLM will face a similar political hurdle this time around, although the political leaders are aware that the carrier is facing huge revenue downside, hurt by higher fuel prices and the European debt crisis. One other likely scenario for the carrier is re-nationalization.

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