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ALITALIA is at the centre of speculation that it could be in line for another government hand-out after reports that the Italian government has included ”750 million in its 2005 budget for "capital for companies in the air transport sector."
If the reports are true, it would far exceed the government bridging loan of ”400 million for the struggling airline approved by the European Commission earlier this year. The office of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the economy ministry have both refused to comment on the purpose of the budgeted funds.
A wide-ranging restructuring plan announced last month envisages Alitalia, which is 62%-owned by the Italian government, being split into two divisions: AZ Fly, handling flight operations and AZ Service, covering non-flight functions such as maintenance and IT. The airline has already announced a plan to slash jobs numbers and says it is aiming to break even in 2006. The government is expected to retain a minimum 30% stake in AZ Fly, with the remainder sold off to institutional investors in a capital increase in early 2005.