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Berlusconi steps back on foreign takeover of Alitalia

Latest update : 2008-04-16

After ruling out a foreign takeover of Italy's flagship carrier Alitalia during the election campaign, the new prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi said he would consider this possibility if the merging companies are put on an equal footing.

Prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi said Wednesday he would accept a takeover of Italy's national flagship Alitalia by Air France-KLM after repeatedly advocating a homegrown alternative.

"There's another possibility of going back to the first solution, that of forming a big international group with equal status among the three airlines," Berlusconi told a news conference.

The conservative media tycoon, whose centre-right coalition won general elections on Monday by a comfortable margin, made a campaign issue of the plight of Alitalia, which is rapidly heading towards bankruptcy.

As talks were faltering between unions and the management of Air France-KLM ahead of the vote, Berlusconi claimed on several occasions that a viable Italian consortium was forming as an alternative.

The outgoing centre-left government, which had been struggling to sell the state's 49.9 percent stake in the loss-making company before the vote, pledged last week to take an "active role" in trying to convince Air France-KLM to reopen takeover talks after they collapsed early this month.

Alitalia, which is losing about one million euros (1.6 million dollars) a day, had some 170 million euros in the bank as of the end of March.

The hard-bargaining unions appeared ready to soften their positions last week.
  

Date created : 2008-04-16