October 14, 2019 / 5:40 PM / a month ago

Alitalia set for temporary reprieve as rescue deadline nears -sources

MILAN, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Alitalia is set to win a temporary lifeline on Tuesday, when its latest rescue deadline expires, with toll road operator Atlantia expected to give a conditional green light to hundreds of millions of euros of investment, according to two people close to the situation.

The future of the troubled Italian carrier remains in doubt with no binding offer and no clear business plan in sight but it should avoid an immediate liquidation after the expiry of the Oct. 15 deadline set by the industry ministry.

Atlantia, which is controlled by Benetton family, has been in talks since July over taking part in a government-orchestrated rescue of the airline, together with railway group Ferrovie dello Stato, the treasury and Delta Air Lines.

“Atlantia is expected to give its commitment to invest in Alitalia subject to several conditions,” one of the sources said. But issues that still cause concern range from potential antitrust problems, treatment of state aid under European Union rules, the cost of possible redundancies and the future of the carrier’s long-haul routes, the source said.

Oct. 15 is the latest in a series of deadlines set for Ferrovie and potential partners in a rescue for Alitalia, which has been under special administrators since May 2017 and needs new funds to continue flying.

The board of Atlantia, which runs Rome’s airports through its Aeroporti di Roma unit, is expected to approve a preliminary commitment to the Alitalia rescue on Tuesday, the sources said.

The rescue plans include potential investment of a total of around 1 billion euros in the carrier, which has cut costs under the special administrators but still burns cash and had only 310 million euros left at the end of September.

Atlantia is expected to invest some 300 million euros, depending on commitments from other partners.

A second source said more time was needed to iron out a complete business plan for Alitalia. Possible involvement by Delta Air Lines or Germany’s Lufthansa AG is still under discussion.

A third source said Atlantia, Ferrovie and other potential partners were under pressure from Italy’s Industry Ministry to present a binding bid and take control of the carrier which in the past two years has already received 900 million euros from the state to stay afloat.

Atlantia’s participation in the rescue was put in doubt this month when it wrote to the Industry ministry, urging a radical overhaul of the Alitalia plan if talks were to go ahead. (Reporting by Francesca Landini, Stefano Bernabei, Giuseppe Fonte. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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