Air France-KLM defers decision on help for Alitalia
By Matthias Blamont and Tim Hepher
PARIS (Reuters) - Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA: Quote) deferred a decision on whether to offer more help for struggling Alitalia CAITLA.UL on Monday, saying it needed more information about its Italian partner's finances.
Air France-KLM said a board meeting - held hours after Italy opened the door to a takeover by inviting the Franco-Dutch carrier to double its 25 percent stake - had discussed its own management's view of loss-making Alitalia's predicament.
"The board considered it vital to hear the information that Alitalia's executive management should provide at a forthcoming meeting of the Italian company's board of directors," Air France-KLM said in a statement afterwards.
Alitalia's board is due to meet on Thursday.
The terse declaration dampened speculation of an imminent Franco-Dutch bid for Alitalia, which faces an estimated cash shortfall of some 400 million euros ($540 million).
Italian Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi said earlier that Rome would not oppose an increase in Air France-KLM's stake to 50 percent.
"I expect that Air France will strongly reaffirm that Alitalia is a strategic asset for Air France, and therefore that there will be a strengthening of Air France's role," he said on the sidelines of a conference in Milan.
"We ask that Air France does not consider Alitalia and (Rome airport) Fiumicino as an appendix, but a strategic asset for the development of European air transport." Continued...