Italian newspapers reported that eight weeks of exclusive talks between Air France-KLM and Alitalia for the sale of the ailing Italian airline will start Wednesday. The government announced two days ago that it was backing the Franco-Dutch bid over a competing one by Italian airline Air One SpA.
The move, paving the way for Alitalia’s sale, prompted criticism from those who wanted the company to remain in Italian hands.
The sale process now enters a crucial phase, a year after the Italian government announced plans to sell its 49.9% stake in the loss-making Alitalia.
Officials at Alitalia could not be reached for comment Sunday. Eloise de Parscau, a Paris-based spokeswoman for Air France-KLM, said the company was not aware of a Wednesday start date for the talks.
She also said she was not aware of any company plans to create a board of trustees for Alitalia, as reported by financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore.
The Italian business daily said Alitalia would be owned by the Air France-KLM holding company and then kept as a separate carrier. The name Alitalia might be added to the holding company, the report said.
It would be a similar strategy to the one adopted when Air France and KLM merged in 2004.
The paper said that a board of three trustees would oversee Alitalia and hold 51% of the voting rights. The board would be made up by one person appointed by Air France-KLM, one by Italian authorities, one by both, Il Sole 24 Ore said.
Alitalia would be headquartered in Italy, the report said.
Air France-KLM has said that it intends to cut traffic at Milan’s Malpensa airport, one of Alitalia’s two hubs along with Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci. It intends to retain Leonardo da Vinci as an international hub along with airports in Paris and Amsterdam.
The move has drawn fierce protests from officials in Italy’s affluent north.
“We’ll take to the streets!” said Umberto Bossi, the leader of the Northern League party. “We"ll make them hear our voice.”