May 17, 2018 / 3:10 PM / 6 months ago

Italy's 5-Star, League plan to halt Alitalia sale

ROME (Reuters) - The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement and the far-right League plan to halt the sale of Italy’s insolvent national airline Alitalia, which has already received three offers, the League’s economics chief Claudio Borghi said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Alitalia's logo is seen on top of the headquarters at Fiumicino international airport in Rome October 14, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi

A draft obtained by Reuters of the two parties’ joint program — intended to be the basis of a coalition government — said Alitalia needs to be “reliance” and that Italy must maintain a “competitive national carrier”.

Asked by Reuters if this meant that the parties’ plan was that Alitalia should no longer be sold, Borghi replied: “Yes.”

The former center-left government had been seeking a buyer for Alitalia for the last year, but the sale process was delayed as a result of uncertainty over the March 4 election, which ended in a hung parliament.

Last month, EasyJet, Lufthansa, and budget carrier Wizz Air submitted expressions of interest in at least parts of Alitalia.

But Borghi’s comment suggests the two parties want the state to invest and again become the main shareholder in the struggling airline.

Alitalia, which has about 12,000 employees, was a symbol of Italy’s post-war economic boom, but now struggles to compete against low-cost carriers and high speed trains at home.

Italy has kept the bankrupt airline running with a 900-million-euro ($1.1 billion) bridge loan, but Alitalia lost 167 million euros before interest and taxes in the first quarter.

Earlier on Thursday one of the state commissioners now running the airline, Luigi Gubitosi, said the next government must decide what to do with it.

But he also issued a warning.

“Whatever they decide to do, they need to do it fast, otherwise the fuel will run out,” Gubitosi said.

Additional reporting by Alberto Sisto; Writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Catherine Evans

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