Alitalia sale could be completed in a month: source

ROME (Reuters) - Alitalia's AZPIa.MI chairman expects a sale of the state's 49.9 percent stake to be completed within a month, a union source said on Tuesday, after the troubled carrier shortlisted six potential investors for a second attempt at finding a rescuer.

Shares in Alitalia jumped 4 percent after it said it would be talking to Aeroflot AFLT.MM, Air France-KLM AIRF.PA, Lufthansa LHAG.DE, private equity firm TPG TPG.UL, domestic airline Air One and a group advised by legal expert Antonio Baldassarre.

The loss-making carrier, which is worth about 1.13 billion euros ($1.59 billion), said it planned to “assess the interest” of those on the shortlist to buy the state’s share. A financial source said all options were open.

Chairman Maurizio Prato spoke to unions on Tuesday and “was confident a solution could be found in a month”, a union source said.

Last month, Prato said the process of what he called “scouting” for buyers would reach a more decisive second phase by mid-November.

Italy’s centre-left government has come under pressure to sell the state’s stake quickly. Alitalia has forecast a loss of just under 400 million euros for 2007, excluding special items.

Russian flag carrier Aeroflot said it had not yet received an invitation to bid. The airline pulled out of an auction attempt which collapsed in July.

Air France-KLM, Alitalia’s long-time commercial partner, snubbed the government’s auction, but has said it could be interested if conditions changed.

Lufthansa said any partnership must make sense for both sides and that it was open to talks.

Alitalia said the group advised by Baldassarre included Italian tourism company I Viaggi del Ventaglio VVE.MI, worth about 66 million euros.

Baldassare said the group had set aside an initial 1 billion to 1.5 billion euros to buy and restructure Alitalia. He said the consortium, which first contacted the airline in August, had agreements with other industrial partners that he expected to complete by the end of this week.

Shares in Alitalia were up 3.15 percent at 0.84 euros by 5:47 a.m. EDT, after touching a high of 0.86 euros, as the overall Milan index .MIBTEL edged 0.44 percent higher.

Additional reporting by Alberto Sisto and Giselda Vagnoni