Air France-KLM win over doubters on Alitalia bid

Air France-KLM is winning over politicians and trade unionists who have doubts about its plan to take control of Alitalia SpA and who favour a rival offer from Italy’s AP Holding SpA, which owns Air One airline, said La Stampa. Alitalia’s board is due to meet tomorrow to make its recommendation on who should acquire the Italian state’s 49.9 pct stake in Alitalia and invest further funds in turning around the airline.

‘A new plan from Air France is welcome if it does not punish Malpensa’ airport in Milan, said Lombardy regional president Roberto Formigoni, cited in La Stampa newspaper.

Last week, Formigoni criticised Air France’s plan for downsizing Alitalia operations at Malpensa after meeting Air France chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta.

La Stampa cited trade union supporters of Air One saying they are open to a non-Italian privatisation of Alitalia.

‘The Air France plan has changed decisively for the better,’ said UIL Trasporti union secretary Marco Veneziani.

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In weekend reports, Spinetta was quoted saying job cuts at Alitalia in its plan would rise to a maximum of 1,700, much lower than the 5,000 figure that union sources had cited as rumoured job cuts.

Alitalia’s chairman Maurizio Prato is seen as a clear supporter of Air France and union sources say is backed by a majority of the board.

La Stampa said deputy prime ministers Franceso Rutelli and Massimo D’Alema have supported Air One’s bid, though Rutelli was cited yesterday saying Air One was ‘less advantageous’ financially.

The newspaper said Air One is making last ditch efforts to bring Texas Pacific Group and Deutsche Lufthansa AG into its consortium, which has backing from Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and other banks.

In comments in Corriere della Sera, Air One owner and chairman Carlo toto said he intends immediately to inject 1 bln eur into Alitalia if he wins the privatisation contest for the airline.

Overall investment is planned at 4.3 bln eur, mainly medium-range planes, which it would add at the rate of 26 a year, he said, reiterating the target for 2009 breakeven and 2010 profit.
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