Talk of takeover bid for Alitalia stokes political backlash in Italy

Marion Dakers

Y’S national airline could be sold to Air France-KLM, dredging up historic arguments as the country heads to the polls in February.

Air France-KLM has the chance to clinch loss-making Alitalia when a lock-up period ends on 12 January, and the newspaper il Messaggero said yesterday the Franco-Dutch firm is in advanced talks to take control. The company declined to comment.

Silvio Berlusconi, the former Prime Minister who blocked the firm’s bid in 2008, said he still opposed a sale. “Our country cannot afford not having its own flagship airline,” he said yesterday.

Mario Monti, who is stepping down as caretaker Prime Minister but might stand in the election, said he would take “no dogmatic positions” on Alitalia’s fate. The airline has been owned by CAI since 2008. Air France owns 25 per cent.