October 28, 2013 / 7:43 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Alcoa willing to reopen talks with Klesch over Italy plant

ROME, Oct 28 (Reuters) - U.S. aluminium group Alcoa is willing to reopen talks to sell an Italian plant to the Swiss industrial group Klesch, the company said on Monday after a meeting between trade unions and Italian government 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.

“We confirm our willingness to sell the plant but only to a reliable counter-party,” an Alcoa spokeswoman told Reuters after union and government officials had announced Alcoa was willing to re-open talks.

The two companies and labour 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 Italian Deputy Industry Minister Claudio De Vincenti said.

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. aluminium 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 Oct. 17 ruled that the Alcoa tax breaks constituted state aid and had to be given back to Italy.

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