BERLIN (Reuters) - German and Italian leaders backed a potential agreement on Monday between Alitalia AZPIa.MI and Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) on the German airline taking a minority stake in the Italian carrier.
CAI, the group that has offered to rescue Alitalia, has said it will choose a foreign partner for the airline in the coming weeks. Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) and Lufthansa are expected to battle it out for a stake, with the German carrier seen edging out its French rival.
“We have said that we are open to international alliances and it would please us greatly if this alliance was with a country that we have worked with a lot, namely Germany,” Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
“For Italy this would be welcome and it’s of course up to the two parties, Alitalia and Lufthansa, to decide if it would be convenient for both,” he added.
Merkel said Germany would also welcome the deal but added it was up to Lufthansa to decide.
“If it comes to such a decision — and I’m glad to hear that Italy is still open on the question — I would consider that very good and support it wholeheartedly,” she said.
Berlusconi pushed through changes to bankruptcy law last month to allow Alitalia to be split and pave the way for its bailout by the CAI group.
CAI formally reinstated its offer to buy Alitalia’s profitable assets last week in a bid to relaunch the airline by early November after briefly withdrawing the offer last month over union opposition.
Alitalia’s nine unions have since agreed to support CAI’s rescue, breathing life into the deal.
Berlusconi said he was “very happy” to have found a positive solution to the Alitalia issue and the airline had the necessary capital to “proceed with its activities.”
Reporting by Iain Rogers, writing by Kerstin Gehmlich, editing by Leslie Gevirtz