Overwhelming Debt, Labor Issues Seen As Repelling Forces
They just couldn't hang on. The last remaining bidders in the
auction for Italy's state-owned carrier, Alitalia, withdrew their
bids Tuesday night.
As ANN reported, the country
has struggled to keep the auction alive. With less than a week to
go before final offers were due, Italy was doing its best to
prevent a collapse of the sale.
The only real contender was small domestic carrier Air One...
and it was still actively trying to raise funds to support its bid
just this week. It announced Tuesday night it was throwing in the
towel and withdrawing its offer because of overly-stringent
conditions, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
Then, a few hours after Air One's announcement, the last
remaining possibility -- a consortium led by US investors Texas
Pacific Group (TPG) and Matlin-Patterson -- announced it would not
be participating in the sale, either.
"You see this all the time with state-owned airlines," said
Frost & Sullivan aviation consultant Diogenis Papiomytis.
"Bidders are interested in the beginning because Alitalia has a
strong brand name and a good network, but once you see its books
and how it's run -- you can't get away from the unions and the
political interventionism. All of this can deter any bidder from
Alitalia said it was prepared to continue operations for about a
year, but will need an influx of cash very soon. According to the
Associated Press, Italy's transportation minister is now suggesting
the Italian government seek private talks with interested
"It would seem peculiar to launch a new race. I see the road of
negotiations with those who might show or have shown an interest as
an easier way," Transport Minister Alessandro Bianchi said.
Part of the problem lies in the conditions attached to the sale
of the struggling carrier. Any buyer would have to take on
Alitalia's existing debt, which, as of December, was more than $1.3
billion. The carrier would also have to retain an Italian identity
for at least the next eight years.
Attempts to turn Alitalia around have been hampered by, among
other things, the familiar combination of competition from low-fare
carriers, high fuel costs and labor unrest.
The latest strike is by flight attendants, who staged a 24-hour
strike Wednesday. Unions are saying more than 100 flights were
cancelled and potentially thousands of passengers stranded as a
So what is next for the faltering carrier?
"We are already reflecting on what do in the future," Italian
Premier Romano Prodi said. "There are various options on the
He did not expound upon just what those options might be.