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Alitalia, Italian State wants to try again

Rome - There’s an attempt to bring the Italian State into Alitalia, in conjunction with one or more from the private sector, with the aim of keeping all twelve-thousand employees in the company. It’s a kind of re-versioning of the scenario which Berlusconi launched unsuccessfully in 2008

Rome - There’s an attempt to bring the Italian State into Alitalia, in conjunction with one or more from the private sector, with the aim of keeping all twelve-thousand employees in the company.

A kind of re-versioning of the ‘Captains Courageous’ scenario, as the scheme in Italy became known, which Berlusconi launched unsuccessfully in 2008, but this time with state backing. It’s the project that Italy’s new coalition government is trying to piece together, to try and relaunch the airline which has been in administration proceedings for over a year.

The 5 Star Movement (M5S) is the main backer of the move, given the presence of Luigi Di Maio in the Ministry of Economic Development, and Danilo Toninelli in that of Transport. From the Lega party, however, there seems almost a reluctance to handle the issue, leaving the hot potato in the hands of the M5S, as finding a solution to Alitalia’s troubles is far from easy (as could be said for Taranto’s Ilva).

On the table there is also the possibility that the government will change its set of commissioners, replacing Enrico Laghi, repeatedly under fire by the Five Stars. Yesterday in Parliament - where the decree that provides for an extension of the sale deadline, now postponed to October 31, was finally approved, Undersecretary for Development, Davide Crippa of the M5S, clearly explained that the topic of a state presence in the former flag carrier “has been brought to the attention of the government”.

An exact capital share will be formulated in the future, but in the meantime it is clear that the 5 Star Movement has moved from the idea of full nationalization to that of participation.

To reach this goal, it’s possible that a new call for tenders will be launched, with new terms, also because under the current one only the companies already in the running would be able to acquire the company, namely Lufthansa, Easyjet and WizzAir. Certain large companies, mostly Italian, to which the 5 Star Movement had reached out, having approached the government with requests for public backing, would therefore be precluded.

The situation is still fluid, but as Toninelli explained in the Chamber “we will soon speak our mind.” For some months now, Alitalia has been under scrutiny by certain investment banks, sources close to the matter explained, trying to come up with the right combination of entrepreneurs to take over the company.

Some of these banks, it seems, have already thrown in the towel, unconvinced of the soundness of the business. In fact it’s easier for a company in the same sector, to find some appetite for Alitalia, in the interest of market consolidation. Results for the troubled airline company, still, are somewhat better than expected.

Among the possibilities, there is clearly the entry of the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), approached last year without any success. The problem, however, is that under its statute the CDP cannot enter companies that are operating at a loss, and statements by Giuseppe Guzzetti, president of the shareholders’ foundations at the CDP, are not exactly encouraging: “If CDT wants to pull some weird stunt, then they can count us out.”

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