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1ST LEAD Italy economy minister distances himself from Alitalia rescue plan By Alvise Armellini, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Rome (dpa) - Italy‘s Economy Minister Giovanni Tria poured cold water on suggestions that troubled airline Alitalia may be partly nationalized - just hours after Deputy Premier Luigi Di Maio floated the idea on Friday.

The plan was revealed in an interview with business daily Il Sole 24 Ore by Di Maio, also Industry Minister and leader of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S).

"I think that the Economy Minister should be the one talking about the things that the Treasury does. I did not talk about [Alitalia]," Tria said on the sidelines of an International Monetary Fund meeting in Bali. ANSA news agency and other Italian media quoted his remarks.

Tria, a technocrat with no formal political affiliation, is often depicted as being at odds with Di Maio‘s M5S and the other ruling party, the far-right League of Matteo Salvini.

In his interview, Di Maio said the Economy Ministry would acquire roughly a 15-per-cent stake in Alitalia, as part of a rescue plan also involving state-owned railway company Ferrovie dello Stato.

There would also be "an important international technical partner," Di Maio said. Asked if he was referring to China Eastern or US-based Delta Airlines, he replied: "I am neither confirming nor denying."

Italy‘s troubled airline went into government-controlled bankruptcy last year, and it has been kept afloat by state loans worth 900 million euros (one billion dollars).

The government is supposed to end the bankruptcy procedure by finding a buyer for the company by October 31. It is also due to recoup the state loans extended to Alitalia by December 15.

Di Maio said that part of the money Alitalia owes the state would be paid in company shares, thus turning the Italian government into a company shareholder.

He said the idea was to have a public stake of around 15 per cent because this was in line with the 14.3-per-cent stake that the French state has in Air France-KLM.

The European Commission, the chief antitrust authority in the EU, would have to approve the terms of the corporate rescue outlined by Di Maio.

Germany‘s Lufthansa had previously expressed an interest in a full takeover of Alitalia, but only if the company was deeply restructured, shedding many employees.

Alitalia has not turned a profit since 2002 and was privatized in 2008. According to Andrea Giuricin, a transport expert, it is set to lose 453 million euros this year.


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