Italian airline Alitalia's rescue in doubt as Atlantia backtracks

Credit: REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

Italian infrastructure group Atlantia said on Tuesday it was not ready to join a consortium led by Italian railway group Ferrovie dello Stato to rescue loss-making carrier Alitalia [CAITLA.UL], casting a shadow on the entire project.

By Francesca Landini

MILAN, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Italian infrastructure group Atlantia ATL.MI said on Tuesday it was not ready to join a consortium led by Italian railway group Ferrovie dello Stato to rescue loss-making carrier Alitalia CAITLA.UL, casting a shadow on the entire project.

After months of negotiations and with just one day left before a deadline expires, the group controlled by the Benetton family said that the conditions did not exist yet for it to join a consortium working on Alitalia.

Atlantia added, however, it remained available to engage in negotiations to seek for an industrial partner for the carrier.

A deadline to present a binding offer for Alitalia expires on Thursday, after being postponed several times.

Loss-making Alitalia has been run by special administrators since May 2017 and talks led by Ferrovie have been going on for a year without a deal.

The carrier, which is burning through its cash reserves, is expected to finish its money at the end of this year.

Ferrovie and Atlantia have been in talks with both U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines Inc DAL.N and, recently, with German airline Lufthansa LHAG.DE.

Delta said it was ready to invest 100 million euros ($111 million) in the Italian carrier but sources had said it did not agree with Ferrovie and Atlantia over the development of the Italian carrier's long-haul business.

On the other hand, Lufthansa said it was prepared to set up a commercial partnership with the Italian carrier but did not want to take a stake in the group before it has gone through a complete restructuring.

"We will not invest in current Alitalia, but we are interested being a commercial partner," said Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr at an event in Berlin on Tuesday.

Italian daily La Repubblica on Tuesday said the airline could be nationalized for some years before being sold.

Analysts calculate that Italian taxpayers have spent more than 9 billion euros to support Alitalia, which has undergone two previous failed rescue attempts.

($1 = 0.9028 euros)

(Reporting by Francesca Landini; Additional reporting by Ilona Wissenbach in Berlin; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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