Alitalia swaps Heathrow slots for 92 mln euros

ROME, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Money-losing Italian airline Alitalia AZPIa.MI said on Monday it agreed to exchange three of its 13 pairs of slots at London's Heathrow Airport for an estimated 92 million euros ($132 million).

The state-controlled airline, which is losing about 1 million euros a day, offered no details about the nature of the exchange. It said in a statement the slots being swapped were “non-strategic.”

Alitalia said the swap was expected to add 54 million euros to its 2007 balance sheet. The remaining 38 million euros would be added to 2008 accounts.

Officials at Alitalia’s press office said they did not have any additional information on the exchange, including the other party in the exchange and whether there was any additional compensation for the Heathrow slots beyond cash.

The airline's board of directors on Friday backed an acquisition bid from Air France-KLM AIRF.PA. A decision on whether to enter into exclusive talks with Air France-KLM now rests with Alitalia's largest shareholder, the Italian state.

The government has said it will make its decision between by mid-January, a deadline Alitalia management has said is important given the troubled state of Alitalia’s accounts.

Alitalia reported on Monday that net debt on a group level rose 0.8 percent in November to 1.19 billion euros ($1.71 billion) by the end of the month.

The group had 395 million euros in cash-to-hand and short-term financial credits as of Nov. 30, down 7.7 percent from the end of October.

It said passenger traffic increased 0.7 percent in November year over year, while capacity fell by the same amount. ($1=.6948 Euro)