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Italy minister "less optimistic" on clinching Alitalia sale pre-election

ROME, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Italy’s industry minister said on Thursday he had become less hopeful about the chances of entering exclusive talks to sell struggling airline Alitalia before an election on March 4.

Carlo Calenda told SkyTG24 television he was now “less optimistic” about starting exclusive negotiations.

Germany’s Lufthansa, British low-cost carrier easyJet and U.S. private equity fund Cerberus have expressed interest in Alitalia, which was put under special administration last year after staff rejected a plan to cut jobs and salaries.

Rome originally planned to start talks with one of the parties by mid-January, in the hope of striking a deal before the election.

Lufthansa’s chief executive said on Wednesday the firm was only interested in buying Alitalia if it could be restructured, but there was little sign of that happening at present. (Reporting by Francesca Piscioneri, writing by Isla Binnie)

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