Buona notte Alitalia?

The failure of the French-Dutch bid for Alitalia won't surprise observers of Italian business and politics...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It was always going to be a tricky deal to pull off, so Thursday’s news that takeover talks between Air France-KLM and Alitalia have collapsed after nine Italian trade unions rejected the group’s restructuring plan, came as no big shock. A battered-looking Alitalia chairman announced his resignation - and if anyone ever looked like they needed a bit of R&R, it was Maurizio Prato (he's been replaced by lawyer Aristide Police today).

But it was Prato's reported comments that left many nodding their heads in agreement. ‘This company is cursed,’ he said. ‘Only an exorcist can save it.’ MT remembers interviewing just the man two years back – the Reverend Tom Willis, who told us that he gets ‘satisfaction from knowing that I’ve cured a problem, whether by making someone fit again or bringing peace to a disturbed place.’ And one thing is for sure, Alitalia is definitely in a disturbed place right now.

So, what next for the beleaguered Italian airline? Alitalia management held an emergency board meeting, perturbed by Prato’s parting warning to the unions, saying that Alitalia risked going bankrupt if they did not accept the deal. The Italian cabinet is discussing the issue right now, and will make a decision about whether or not the deal can be saved.

The Italian general election, just 10 days away, will complicate matters further, as prime ministerial candidate Silvio Berlusconi has already made clear that he is against the sale of the government’s 49.9% stake. Apparently, the unions too favour another way out for Alitalia… the final straw for Air-France-KLM was a last-minute attempt by unions to broker another deal on the side with an unnamed Italian company.

‘This is a very dire situation’, said Erika Young, from union FILT-CGIL. MT can but agree…



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