* Some investors favour sale to Air France-sources
* Lock-up period for trading shares ends Jan. 12
* Air France, IMMSI investor say no talks going on
(Adds comments by IMMSI, source and banker)
By Paola Arosio and Giselda Vagnoni
MILAN/ROME, Jan 7 Investors in Alitalia who
helped rescue the airline four years ago are considering selling
their shares, with some pushing for a deal with long-time
stakeholder Air France-KLM, sources with knowledge of
the situation said on Monday.
Shares in Italian holding company IMMSI, which
owns 7 percent of Alitalia, closed up 18 percent at 0.53 euros
following speculation of a possible sale to Air France-KLM.
But the Franco-Dutch group which owns a quarter of Italy's
flagship airline said there were no talks going on.
"There is nothing. There are no negotiations," Air France's
chief executive Alexandre de Juniac told Reuters. He also said
that the airline's resources for such a move were extremely
In a statement later on Monday IMMSI also denied there were
any talks under way to sell its 7.08 percent stake in A litalia.
On Sunday Italian newspaper Il Messaggero had said that Air
France was in advanced talks to buy the whole of Alitalia,
offering a 20 percent premium to what the CAI consortium of
domestic investors had paid when the airline was rescued in
CAI is made up of listed and unlisted Italian companies and
amongst the biggest shareholders are Intesa Sanpaolo,
with 8.9 percent, road operator Atlantia with 8.9
percent and IMMSI, which also controls scooter-maker Piaggio.
CAI paid just over 1 billion euros ($1.30 billion) to rescue
the airline, weighed down by debt after years of mismanagement,
political interference and labour unrest.
The investors in the CAI consortium can exercise options to
trade their shares when a lock-up period ends on Jan. 12.
A source close to one of the investors said that any sale of
shares before October required the go- a head from the Alitalia
board and that the other shareholders had a right of first
Two other sources close to Italian shareholders said there
were no formal talks to sell Alitalia, now valued by some
analysts at just over 1.1 billion euros. But they also said
investors were starting to weigh options ahead of the Jan. 12
"Discussions with the advisors have not yet begun. Investors
are starting to think about what to do ahead of Jan. 12," said a
source close to one of the investors.
"Alitalia had from the start been talking about the
opportunity to look for an industrial partner. Air France is
already an investor and if all the pieces fall into place, it (a
sale to Air France) would be the easiest option."
Italian investors have already approached several banking
advisors to help find a buyer.
"It's obvious that there is some movement among investors.
The impression is that (Alitalia's chairman Roberto) Colaninno
is pushing for a deal with Air France but not all the
shareholders agree," another source close to the situation told
Colaninno, who also controls IMMSI, is the head of the CAI
"Those who took a stake in the rescue deal are not active in
the airline sector. They could sell, but they want to make some
money," said the first source close to one of the shareholders.
"However, the situation is delicate as the elections near," the
Mediobanca analyst Massimo Vecchio said in a research note
that the only hurdle for a deal was political.
Air France tried to take over the Rome-based airline just
over four years ago. But the deal was scuppered by then Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who asked the Italian investors to
rescue the carrier instead.
Centre-right leader Berlusconi, who is running again for
prime minister in a February election, said at the weekend he
was still against the airline's sale to a foreign buyer.
"I suspect that these guys (the Italian investors) are now
passing on the message they would be happy to exit sooner rather
than later," a banker familiar with the situation said.
But a transport sector banker said Air France already
benefitted from synergies through its Skyteam alliance with the
"A deeper integration would only be more troublesome at a
time when both companies need to restructure and cut back," he
Alitalia returned to profit in the third quarter after
reporting losses in the first half, booking a net profit of 27
million euros ($35.2 million), down from 70 million euros a year
before. Net debt rose to 923 million euros at the end of
September, up by 61 million euros from the end of June.
($1 = 0.7666 euros)
(Additional reporting by Lisa Jucca, Massimo Gaia, Andrea
Mandala, Stephen Jewkes and Danilo Masoni in Milan, Massimiliano
Di Giorgio and Stefano Bernabei in Rome, Tim Hepher, Blandine
Henault and Cyril Altmeyer in Paris, Sophie Sassard in London;
Writing by Lisa Jucca; Editing by Jane Merriman and Greg