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Italy approves Alitalia takeover

The Italian government on Monday approved the takeover of loss-making national airline Alitalia by French-Dutch competitor Air France-KLM, Italy's economy minister said. (Report: N.Charbit)

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The Italian government on Monday approved the takeover of loss-making national airline Alitalia by French-Dutch competitor Air France-KLM, Italy's economy minister said.

Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa said Prime Minister Romano Prodi would send a letter to Alitalia "containing the agreement to accept the public offer of exchange (of shares) and the acquisition by Air France-KLM of all the shares held by the state," the minister said in a statement released after a cabinet meeting.

The state holds a 49.9 percent stake in the financially strapped Italian national carrier.

The government's green light for the deal, which was expected, followed the airline's acceptance of the French-Dutch airline's offer at the weekend.

The deal proposes to swap one of Air France-KLM share for 160 Alitalia shares, which would value the Italian airline, at 140 million euros (218 million dollars).

The new Alitalia would keep its Italian identity as well as its own brand and logo while about 1,600 jobs out of 11,000 would be lost.

Leading unions at Alitalia raised objections on Monday to the takeover bid, in particular to plans to scrap freight operations and break up the maintenance unit.

The Air France-KLM is demanding an agreement with the unions by March 31 before launching its bid.

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