News / Europe

Rival Airline Attacks Alitalia Rescue as Illegal

An Alitalia plane approaches to land at Fiumicino international airport in Rome, Oct. 14, 2013. (Reuters)
An Alitalia plane approaches to land at Fiumicino international airport in Rome, Oct. 14, 2013. (Reuters)
Reuters
A leading European airline group denounced Italian plans to rescue Alitalia as illegal on Monday, as shareholders were due to vote on a capital increase to keep the near-bankrupt carrier flying.

International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways and Spain's Iberia, urged the European Commission to intervene over the Italian government's attempts to stitch together a bailout for Alitalia.

A 300 million euro [$407 million] capital increase forms a major part of the rescue, which aims to keep Alitalia alive while it works out how to ensure its long-term survival, but the participation of its top investor Air France-KLM  remains far from certain.

IAG said the rescue breaks European Union rules. “We have always been opposed to state aid,” said a spokeswoman for IAG, Europe's third biggest airline group by market value. “It's protectionist, undermines competition and favors failing airlines that have not got to grips with economic reality.”

“We would urge and expect the EU Commission to take interim measures to suspend this manifestly illegal aid,” she added.

In Brussels, the Commission said it expected Italian authorities to inform it of the plan. “Only after receiving the notification will we be able to assess its compatibility with EU state aid rules,” Antoine Colombani, EU Commission spokesman for competition policy, said in an email.

Alitalia, which last turned a profit over a decade ago, was thrown a lifeline on Friday when its board members - including Air France-KLM - approved the government-led 500-million-euro bailout. The emergency plan includes the capital increase and loans worth 200 million euros.

However, all shareholders have 30 days to decide how much money to sink into the issue of new shares. Even if they support Monday's vote, they remain under no obligation to take part later in the cash call.

Air France-KLM, which owns a 25 percent stake and backed the bailout plan when it was presented to Alitalia's board last week, said it would decide on whether to participate only after Monday's shareholder meeting.

The Franco-Dutch airline said on Friday it would set “very strict” conditions before giving any help. Air France-KLM was concerned about the lack of clarity on Alitalia's valuation and insisted on much tougher restructuring, believing the emergency plan was not enough, sources close to the matter said.

“We still don't see how Alitalia could meet any of Air France-KLM's conditions,” one source said, adding any decision would still require a meeting of the Franco-Dutch group's board.

Alitalia is valued at between zero and 150 million euros, according to a study by Credit Suisse commissioned by the airline, a source close to the matter said.

Italy brought in the state-owned post office last week to help save Alitalia. Taking into account a bond convertible into equity subscribed by shareholders for 95 million euros this year, the post office could get a stake of between 14-19 percent if it put a promised 75 million euros into the cash call.

If Air France-KLM does not participate, it risks being overtaken by Poste Italiane as the top shareholder and its  stake could drop below 15 percent. This would mean it would effectively lose its veto power on new shareholders coming in.

Strategic partner

Any of Air France-KLM's strict conditions could clash with Alitalia's long-haul ambitions, analysts said.

Alitalia's new CEO Gabriele Del Torchio wants the company to focus on the higher-margin long-haul market after its plans to become a strong regional player came unstuck due to tough competition from low-cost players and high-speed trains.

Analysts said Air France-KLM remained the natural strategic partner for Alitalia, but the group's appetite was limited as it pushes through its own unpopular restructuring at home.

“I am sure they would strategically want to have Alitalia in their camp, but the last thing they want at the moment is to consolidate a rotting company,” said airlines expert James Halstead, managing partner at UK-based Aviation Strategy Ltd.

A cash call without Air France-KLM would raise the uncertainty over Alitalia's future as it was meant to be only a stop-gap solution before talks on a possible tie-up of the two.

The cash will probably not last long and Alitalia needs a partner such as Air France-KLM to boost its long-term prospects.

The support of Alitalia's domestic investors for the capital increase is also in the balance. Its second biggest shareholder, the Riva family, has had its assets seized in a judicial investigation, including its Alitalia's 11 percent stake.

The airline is currently owned by a disparate group of 21 investors including bank Intesa Sanpaolo and highway operator Atlantia, a consortium pulled together in 2008 by then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi after he rejected a takeover by Air France-KLM.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More