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Italian investors say Alitalia talks can’t go on

The Italian investors meant to save Alitalia from collapse said on Friday they could not return to talks with unions that stalled overnight.

A day after a deadline to seal a deal with unions -- after which the bankruptcy commissioner in charge of the carrier has said he would start liquidation procedures -- the investor group CAI said it saw no way to break the impasse with employees. “CAI notes that, after seven days of meetings, conditions are not right to continue talks with unions on the execution of the Alitalia rescue plan,” a spokesman for the group said. He did not say the group’s offer had been formally withdrawn.

CAI is made up of prominent businesses that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi persuaded to come forward to keep Alitalia Italian, after a sale of the government’s 49.9% stake to Air France-KLM, agreed last year, collapsed under pressure from unions. CAI representatives were meeting senior staff at Berlusconi’s office on Friday morning. Ahead of the CAI comment, unions said they hoped to restart talks later on Friday, despite “insurmountable difficulties”. Labor Minister Maurizio Sacconi said the state of the talks “makes us fear the worst”.

Alitalia is operating under a bankruptcy commissioner who has said he will liquidate the airlines assets and make mass layoffs if the deal with CAI collapses. The commissioner, Augusto Fantozzi, met Pope Benedict at Rome airport as the pontiff was on his way to visit the Lourdes shrine in France, and asked him to pray for the airline which for many Italians is seen as a symbol of the nation. Benedict replied: “I have been praying for you for some time.” (Reuters)