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New owners want partner before re-launch
Air France KLM has edged ahead of Lufthansa in the battle for a 25% stake in the revamped Alitalia.
CAI, the new owners of the streamlined Italian carrier want the new stakeholder in place before the official re-launch on January 13, Reuters reported.
The agency said AF KLM was ahead of rival Lufthansa despite "aggressive German lobbying and overt political opposition from Rome."
CAI, a consortium of 16 businesses, paid €427m for Alitalia last month after protracted talks with both the government and the unions.
It plans to merge the airline with a rival Air One, which it has already bought, before its re-launch next week with a streamlined network and fewer staff.
The airline which acquires the 25% stake, valued at about €275m, will get access to the fourth largest aviation market in Europe, Reuters said.
Air France KLM has closer links to Alitalia than Lufthansa. Both AF KLM and Alitalia belong to the SkyTeam alliance.
The former also tried to buy Alitalia last year, backed by the then Italian government, before the deal collapsed in the face of union opposition.
Reuters reported that "CAI's plans giving Rome the lion's share of intercontinental destinations under the new network also suggest a likely deal with the French, who want a greater role for the hub."
Alitalia went into administration in August after years of loss making and muddle.
Its survival under CAI depends on a new efficient business model which has seen staff cut from 20,000 to 12,500 as well as a cut in its network.
Augusto Fantozzi, the administrator who oversaw Alitalia's bankruptcy told the Italian L'Espresso magazine: "Alitalia died because of its 'grandeur'... it had a structure that was too big with respect to its hopes of producing a profit.
"It's been said that (CAI Chairman Roberto) Colaninno was given the juiciest bits of Alitalia, but even he'll have problems filling the airplanes."
www.airfrance.com www.alitalia.com www.lufthansa.com