Alitalia to seek a buyer following administration

Italy’s government has confirmed that national airline Alitalia will be put up for sale in two weeks’ time, in a bid to find a buyer who can save it from liquidation.

“Within 15 days the commissioners will be open to expressions of interest,” said economic development minister Carlo Calenda. “For us the priority is the sale of the whole company.”

Alitalia has received more than €7bn (£5.9bn/US$7.6bn) from the Italian state in the past decade, but the airline went into administration on Tuesday after employees voted against a plan to cut jobs and salaries that would have allowed it to secure additional funding. The government has ruled out providing additional funds or renationalisation.

The airline said that Italian shareholders, including banks UniCredit and Intesa, and Etihad, the Abu Dhabi airline that holds a 49% stake in Alitalia, had been“committed to recapitalise and finance the plan with €2bn”. However, they were unable to go ahead without the support of the workforce.

Alitalia said that its flight schedule will be maintained for six months, thanks to a €600m bridging loan approved by the centre-left government of prime minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Meanwhile, the administrators will examine whether the business can be rescued, They are tasked by the government to find prospective buyers as quickly as possible, while also minimising the amount of public money spent on the airline.

Recent press reports on potential buyers for Alitalia have named Germany’s Lufthansa, Ferrovie dello Stato, Italy’s state-owned railway and Qatar Airways, which has invested in Meridiana, a rival Italian airline, as among the likely suitors.

“Any idea is welcome, but the important thing to keep in mind is that Alitalia needs an alliance with a big European group,” said Calenda. “The problem is that its scale is too small.”

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