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Alitalia says contacted by group of investors

(Adds Baldassarre’s comment, background)

ROME, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Troubled Italian airline Alitalia AZPIa.MI said on Tuesday it had been contacted by a new group of investors that expressed interest in the Treasury's nearly 50 percent stake in the carrier and requested a meeting.

Alitalia -- which is struggling to find a buyer -- issued its statement at the request of stock market regulator Consob after lawyer Antonio Baldassare said he was advising a group of unidentified financiers and entrepreneurs interested in the airline.

Baldassarre said on Tuesday the group had not formed a consortium yet and said bidding for Alitalia was a “working hypothesis” at this stage.

He refused to identify the members of the group, saying they would become known after a meeting with the company, for which he said no date had been set.

Alitalia said in its statement the meeting could be scheduled at the end of August or early September. It said the group had expressed its interest by telephone.

The group, which is thought to be largely Italian, has joined a handful of companies which say they could consider buying the loss-making airline, though the Italian government’s attempt to sell it through an auction failed last month when all bidders pulled out.

Rome says it still wants to shed its 49.9 percent stake but has handed responsibility for finding a buyer to Alitalia’s management.

Baldassarre, a former chairman of Italy’s constitutional court, said earlier this month that the group he represented had more than five Italian and foreign members involving both financial and corporate interests. He said none of them had participated in the failed auction.

Italy last month called off its seven-month auction for the national airline after all bidders pulled out, citing restrictive conditions.

All the final contenders in that auction -- Russian airline Aeroflot, U.S. private equity firms MatlinPatterson and TPG, and smaller Italian carrier AirOne -- have said they would be interested again if Italy relaxed the terms of the sale.

(Additional reporting by Giselda Vagnoni)

(Writing by Lisa Jucca and Silvia Aloisi)

((Editing by Gerald E. McCormick; Rome newsroom +39 06 8522 4350)) Keywords: ALITALIA/

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