MILAN Jan 8 Alitalia's chairman is
re-considering his decision not to stand for re-election after
some of the airline's biggest shareholders asked him to stay
while talks with potential investor Etihad Airways continue,
sources close to the matter said on Wednesday.
Roberto Colaninno said in October he would step down after a
300-million-euro ($408 million) capital increase, completed at
the end of December.
Shareholders are due to propose candidates for the new board
by the end of Wednesday ahead of a meeting to appoint the new
directors on Jan. 13.
Alitalia is now in the middle of talks with Abu Dhabi's
Etihad, which sources close to the matter say is willing to take
a large stake. This may mean another board reshuffle for the
flagship Italian airline should a deal come through.
"Several shareholders have asked Colaninno to stay on during
the transition period because they see no point in a new person
coming in should the shareholding structure again be reshuffled
after a potential deal with Etihad," one of the sources said.
Analysts and industry sources have said the talks with
Etihad are likely to take several weeks.
The sources said uncertainty over the future governance
structure of the loss-making airline was keeping other
candidates for the chairmanship away. Colaninno is the
frontrunner, they said.
Colaninno could not be reached for comment and Alitalia
declined to comment.
Chief Executive Gabriele Del Torchio, who took the helm in
April and is pushing through cost-cutting measures, is widely
expected to be re-appointed as he enjoys the backing of
shareholders, the sources said.
"Del Torchio is liked by all," a second source said.
Etihad is carrying out due diligence on Alitalia. Sources
with knowledge of the situation have said Etihad is considering
injecting up to 300 million euro into Alitalia, which would give
it a stake of around 40 percent, large enough to secure
sufficient management and strategy influence.
Alitalia offers access to Europe's fourth-largest travel
market and flies 25 million passengers a year. But the airline,
loses 700,000 euros a day and has net debt of more than 800
After the capital increase, Alitalia's main shareholders
include banks Intesa Sanpaolo and UniCredit,
state-owned Poste Italiane, motorway group Atlantia and
Colaninno's holding group IMMSI.
Air France-KLM, which used to be Alitalia's
biggest investor with a stake of 25 percent, refused to
subscribe to the airline's capital increase and will see its
stake diluted to seven percent.
($1 = 0.7349 euros)
(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak and Lisa Jucca; Editing by Elaine