Company Dismisses Speculation, Adds Serious Changes Would Have
Even though Italy has officially closed its seven-month auction
for its state-owned airline, Alitalia, rumors are re-circulating
that Air France - KLM is still interested, but the carrier isn't
According to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, Air France-KLM is
outlining some tough conditions if it were to take over the
beleaguered carrier, specifically a clear plan for the Alitalia's
privatization and financial restructuring - things it's asked for
In private, reportedly, Air France officials won't exclude any
options, but publicly, they brush off speculation political,
industry or media pressure will force a bid.
Those close to the Air France-KLM camp say there is little
chance of a change of heart, barring the occurrence of some serious
changes in areas like governmental attitude, debt and labor issues,
As ANN has reported, 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 last week. Unions are saying more than 100 flights were
cancelled and thousands of passengers were stranded as a
A spokesperson for Air France-KLM said the airline had nothing
to add to its chairman's recent comments that Air France-KLM was
not interested in Alitalia in its current state.
There are also reports the Italian government is reluctantly
getting ready to make some of those serious changes in a last,
desperate effort to restructure a more attractive package.
They may not have a choice. Officials are warning the carrier
could be shut down altogether if a qualified buyer isn't found soon
apparently speaking to unions that have also been instrumental in
lessening the attractiveness of the deal.
If the Italian government is going to create another package, it
will have to do so quickly as Air France-KLM is reported to be
sniffing around Spanish airline Iberia as a potential purchase.