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Deadline for Alitalia bids extended

The deadline for presenting formal bids for a controlling stake in Italian national carrier Alitalia has been extended from July 2 to July 12, the economy ministry said Thursday. 

The decision to extend the deadline gave potential bidders extra time to examine the airline's books and complete due diligence. Earlier this week the Treasury said the American equity firm MatlinPatterson Global Advisers would be allowed to see Alitalia's books in view of presenting a formal bid. MatlinPatterson had previously been part of a consortium with Texas Pacific Group and the Milan merchant bank Mediobanca which had been one of the three final bidders invited in April to present a formal offers for Alitalia. However, the consortium dropped out of the race last month because it said the conditions imposed by the Treasury were too strict. The other remaining bidders in the running for Alitalia are AirOne, Italy's second biggest airline allied with the Intesa SanPaolo bank, and Aeroflot Russian Airlines, together with Italy's biggest bank UniCredit.

The Italian government decided at the end of last year to sell most of its 49.9% stake in Alitalia. At first the Treasury indicated it would retain „no more” than a 10% interest, but last month Economy Minister Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa told the parliament that the full 49.9% stake could be sold under the proper conditions. Alitalia last week announced a Q1 net loss of €135 million ($180.7 million) compared to €159 million (212.7 million) in the Q1 of 2006 and said it had sufficient cash to continue operating for another 12 months. It said it expected to end 2007 with a better operating result than the previous year but could not make any forecasts for 2008 because of the privatization process under way. (