Press: Minister says Alitalia a victim of politics

Alitalia has been exploited by politicians for too long and could not continue in its present state, Italy’s economy minister told a newspaper, defending the decision to pave the way for a deal with Air France-KLM.The Italian government, which holds a 49.9 percent stake in the carrier, last week approved Alitalia pursuing talks with Air France-KLM.

The decision sparked an outcry from unions and politicians who want the airline to remain in Italian hands. Italy’s three biggest unions preferred a rival bid by Air One, a privately owned Italian airline.

“For too long, politicians have exploited the situation at Alitalia for their own gain,” Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, whose ministry oversees privatisations of state firms, told Italian daily Corriere della Sera. “It could not continue anymore.”

Alitalia loses more than one million euros ($1.47 million) a day, is frequently hit by strikes, and has been saved from bankruptcy in the past by state bailouts.

Protests from officials in Italy’s north—who fear job losses and a smaller role for Alitalia’s Milan Malpensa hub—were not helping the carrier’s plight, Padoa-Schioppa said.

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He said he had hoped Alitalia would be acquired by a group of businessmen from northern Italy, but none came forward. Private equity firm TPG—one of the initial contenders eyeing Alitalia—had searched and failed to find a partner in the region, he said.
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