ROME U.S. aluminum group Alcoa (AA.N) is willing to reopen talks to sell an Italian plant to the Swiss industrial group Klesch, unions and a senior government official said on Monday after a meeting with company representatives in Rome.
Alcoa broke off negotiations in June to sell its smelter on the island of Sardinia to Klesch, which put forward a formal expression of interest last year.
The two companies and labor unions will meet again at the industry ministry by the end of November to see whether a deal can be reached, the UILM union and Deputy Industry Minister Claudio De Vincenti said.
No comment was immediately available from Alcoa.
About 300 workers temporarily laid off from the plant protested outside the ministry during the meeting in which the government said there were no other companies apart from Klesch interested in the smelter, UILM said.
Alcoa last year decided to shut its smelter in Sardinia, an island hit by high unemployment and slow economic growth, blaming high power prices for undermining its competitiveness.
But under intense political pressure, the U.S. aluminum giant has laid off workers temporarily and maintained the plant while it searched for a buyer.
Alcoa has already paid back to the government about 295 million euros ($406.67 million) it received in preferential power tariffs over the last decade, De Vincenti told reporters.
Europe's highest court on October 17 ruled that the Alcoa tax breaks constituted state aid and had to be given back to Italy.
($1 = 0.7254 euros)
(Reporting by Francesca Piscioneri; writing by Steve Scherer; editing by David Evans)