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Air France-KLM CEO meets Alitalia investor group

  Air France-KLM’s CEO met the head of an investor group buying Alitalia on Wednesday to express his "strong interest" in taking a stake and agreed to a major concession in talks, sources familiar with the talks said.


Air France-KLM and Lufthansa, whose CEO was in Rome last week to meet Alitalia’s unions and Italian officials, are jostling to buy a minority stake in Alitalia in a bid to grab a foothold in the lucrative Italian market.

British Airways is not planning to invest, a spokeswoman said, although a source familiar with the company said it may pursue a commercial partnership with the carrier if its rescue proves a success. “BA might be interested in some sort of strategic commercial relationship,” the source said, adding that an alliance was a possibility.

Air France-KLM CEO Jean-Cyril Spinetta, who in an earlier attempt to buy Alitalia proposed ditching the Italian carrier’s twin-hub strategy, agreed to support the CAI consortium’s decisions on hubs and the network as long as they were profitable, a source close to the talks said. “Air France-KLM has given its willingness to support CAI’s choices on hubs and network as long as the efficiency and profitability of the project is guaranteed,” the source said.

Air France-KLM’s insistence on a single hub for Alitalia based in Rome had alienated unions and politicians in Milan who lobbied against an alliance with the French fearing job cuts. Air France-KLM’s then deal to buy Alitalia fell apart over resistance from unions and Silvio Berlusconi, who was then the opposition leader campaigning to become prime minister.

The meeting at the French embassy in Rome came as the commissioner overseeing Alitalia’s bankruptcy confirmed that CAI’s offer was the only bid received by a Sept. 30 deadline for all of Alitalia. The commissioner, Augusto Fantozzi, received other expressions of interest for specific parts of Alitalia’s operations, the airline said in a statement without naming the offers. (Reuters)