World News

Alitalia bleeds around 300 million euros a year: administrator

By Francesca Landini

MILAN (Reuters) – Struggling Italian carrier Alitalia [CAITLA.UL] is burning through its cash resources at the pace of around 300 million euros ($334 million) a year, its new temporary administrator Giuseppe Leogrande told members of a parliamentary committee.

In November, after months of talks, railway group Ferrovie dello Stato, U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines <DAL.N> and infrastructure group Atlantia <ATL.MI> backtracked on a plan to rescue the carrier.

That left the government to choose between liquidating the company, or injecting more taxpayers’ money to keep it flying.

Alitalia, which has been through two previous unsuccessful reorganizations, is due to receive a further 400 million euros from the government, in addition to the 900 million euros the state has injected since May 2017.

Leogrande said on Tuesday he was still working on an industrial plan for the loss-making airline.

That triggered a harsh reaction from some members of the parliament’s transport committee, who noted that he needed to find a group of rescuers for the carrier by the end of May.

The new manager said he would re-start talks with Delta and was also prepared to talk with Lufthansa <LHAG.DE>.

But the future for Alitalia is uncertain, as Delta is only prepared to invest 100 million euros in the group, and Lufthansa does not want to take an equity stake.

Speaking ahead of the same committee on Tuesday, Joerg Eberhart, the president and chief executive of Lufthansa’s Air Dolomiti unit, made clear the German carrier was offering a commercial partnership to Alitalia, not an equity investment.

“A deep restructuring is unavoidable for Alitalia,” Eberhart said, adding that, once restructured, the Italian carrier could decide which European airline alliance to join. He said Lufthansa was still interested in working with the Italian group.

A commercial partnership with Lufthansa <LHAG.DE> would boost revenues at the ailing Italian airline by 100 million euros annually in the medium term, Eberhart said.

Lufthansa would also be interested in Rome’s Fiumicino airport as a new hub for Southern Europe, the German manager said.

He said Alitalia should join Lufthansa in the Star Alliance, the world’s largest group of carriers, allowing them to cooperate on marketing routes and pricing.

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(Reporting by Francesca Landini; Writing by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Jan Harvey)