Saturday 18 November 2017

Ryanair and Easyjet tipped for possible bids for struggling Alitalia

An Alitalia plane prepares to take off from Linate Airport, Milan, Italy
An Alitalia plane prepares to take off from Linate Airport, Milan, Italy
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Ryanair has been touted as a potential buyer of Alitalia's short-haul flight operations as the struggling Italian carrier continues to lose about €500,000 a day.

Italian newspaper 'Il Sole 24 Ore' reported that Alitalia ceo Cramer Ball has drafted two potential strategies, including selling its short-haul operations, with Ryanair and Easyjet named as possible buyers.

Another option for Alitalia could be to establish its own low-cost operation, the newspaper reported.

It added that Mr Ball met Ryanair ceo Michael O'Leary last month, and that Mr O'Leary offered to carry Alitalia short and medium-haul passengers for €40 each-way. Ryanair said it does not comment on rumours or speculation.

Gulf carrier Etihad owns 49pc of Alitalia, having invested in the airline in 2014 as part of a €1.76bn rescue plan. Etihad had promised to return Alitalia to profitability by this year.

Speaking in Dublin this week at the Global Airfinance conference, Etihad ceo James Hogan said that progress in Alitalia in the first full year of Etihad's involvement had a "meaningful effect" at the Italian carrier.

"What is important is that we continue to focus on how we work through the challenges ... and work closely with the Italian government," he said.

On Wednesday, Mr Ball met the Italian investor group - including lenders - that owns the other 51pc of Alitalia to update them on cost-cutting measures so far. He has declined to comment on the reports in the Italian newspaper. Etihad recently invested €100m in equity in Alitalia, and also converted a bond into "semi-equity", according to Mr Hogan.

He said in Dublin that Etihad remains "committed" to its equity partnership model, which has seen the airline take stakes in carriers such as Air Berlin, Air Seychelles and Virgin Australia. He also called for the European Union's airline ownership rules to be overhauled to enable companies from outside the trading bloc to be allowed buy more than 49pc of any EU airline.

Irish Independent

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