Air France-KLM and Air One have stepped up their campaigns to win the 49% state-owned share of Italian flag carrier Alitalia before tomorrow”s board meeting which may decide the new owner.
On Saturday, Air One put out a statement saying it had firm offers for 90 Airbus A320 with which it would replace ageing aircraft operating domestic and European routes, and that it would acquire another 20 aircraft for long-haul routes.
Air France-KLM has countered saying it will ”immediately invest at least ”750m” ($1.08bn) in the struggling airline, a large part of which will be used to pay for upgraded cabin designs and seating, in-flight entertainment, and ground services. It also said fleet renewal on short and long-haul is a top priority.
The smaller carrier Air One has an important card in its favour ” it is Italian, and enjoys support from the unions and Confindustria, the national employers” association. Last week national newspaper La Stampa ran a story headlined ”A chorus of yeses for Air One”, and another, Il Messaggero, said ”Air One bid takes off”.
Air France clearly aims to counter these sentiments with its statement today (17 December) saying it will ”restore Alitalia”s international image as a major airline and convey the Italian flag and values all over the world”.
”Air France-KLM will support Alitalia in restoring and recovering its natural position and market share” it reads.
Its promise of a cash injection in the form of a capital increase also highlights some people”s concern regarding low-cost carrier Air One”s corresponding lack of financial muscle ” and therefore its ability to rescue an airline ”1.2bn ($1.73bn) in debt, losing a further ”1m ($1.4m) every day, and with a recent history of strikes relating to restructuring plans.
While Air One claims support from four banks - Intesa Sanpaolo, Morgan Stanley, Nomura and Goldman Sachs ” Air France-KLM offers the protective umbrella of Europe”s biggest airline grouping.
But does the Italian government want to sell its stake to a foreign company and make Italy the only large European state without a flag airline? The decision may be made at Tuesday”s meeting.