The Italian carrier was placed into receivership in September, and has been allowed to carry on operating, despite breaking EU financial rules on both government aid and cash reserves.
The takeover by CAI was finally approved in late September by the airline’s nine unions, although the â‚¬1 billion plan encompasses some 3,000 redundancies.
Under the agreement, CAI will purchase the Italian government’s 49.9 per cent stake, before merging the profitable parts of the business with Italy’s second largest airline, Air One – thus creating a new airline entity. The unprofitable parts of Alitalia will be liquidated and Alitalia Cargo will be sold.
Meanwhile, Lufthansa appears to have taken the lead in the race to become the airline’s foreign partner. Italian trade unions and politicians, including Berlusconi, have indicated that they favour a deal that would give the German carrier a minority stake in the airline.
Rival for the partnership role, Air France-KLM, has expressed a preference for a major hub in Rome by moving many of the operations away from Milan, but this plan has angered unions and politicians.
While Lufthansa remain favourites and AF-KLM remain a viable option, British Airways have also expressed an interest in becoming the airline’s partner – although would not take a stake in the airline.
The major attraction for all three airlines in a purchase of Alitalia, is access to the lucrative market especially in the north of the country and the value of Alitalia’s slots at Europe’s major airports.
Since the introduction of the EU-US ‘open skies’ agreement, the value of slots at many major hubs has soared. Alitalia’s 10 slot pairs at London Heathrow alone are now estimated to be worth â‚¬300 million.