Alitalia, the eternal ruin that Italy is reluctant to let die

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In August of last year, when the collapse of the Genoa bridge took 43 lives ahead, Italian Vice President Luigi Di Maio said: "Whoever made the mistake must pay." His party, the 5 Star Movement (M5E), controls the Ministry of Infrastructure, responsible for road safety; while the Benetton family, through its firm Atlantia, holds the concession of most of the country's highways. Thus, the M5E chose the Benetton as the main enemy to discharge responsibilities. Since then, he has been threatening to renationalise the tolls of the road network, something he has not done. This week, the board of directors of Alitalia has chosen Atlantia as a priority partner to refloat the airline. Di Maio had expressed earlier that the entrance of the Benetton "would make the planes fall". But when the decision was firm, he congratulated himself for what he believes a good agreement.

There is nothing like the need to end political propaganda. The crisis of Alitalia has cost the State at least 8,300 million euros during the last decades and for two years it has clearly threatened bankruptcy. In 2017, the Government had to intervene the company and inject 900 million after the employees rejected a restructuring plan that included more than a thousand layoffs. He took over a bankruptcy administration that was to last six months and that already has several extensions trying to find a buyer.

In the absence of another major airline that took over a majority stake in Alitalia, the main Italian railway company, Ferrovie dello Stato, appeared. The entry into the airline would involve synergies, such as the reduction of internal routes by air, which would be replaced by trains, or the sale of complementary tickets. Ferrovie was the preferred option for the Government of the League and the M5E, with a strong nationalist message, since together with the participation of the Ministry of Economy, it would continue to leave control of the airline in the hands of the State. The American Delta Airlines had also committed to participate with a minority representation. But I still lacked a strong partner. Atlantia, which last year signed another agreement with ACS to buy Abertis, is a private and Italian giant. He met the requirements, except for his disagreement with the Executive and lack of knowledge of the air market. However, other companies in the sector have avoided entering an airline that accumulates years of losses – last year 154 million before taxes – and with an anchylosed structure that penalizes it.

With the election of the Benetton, the new Alitalia will be controlled by 35% by Atlantia, another 35% by Ferrovie, 15% by the Ministry of Economy and another 10% by Delta. Before realizing the transfer in the property, the new partners will have to design a strategic plan that must be approved by the insolvency administration in September.

Alitalia again faces a solution to the Italian. In the 1990s, he tried to merge with Air France and KLM, which went to pieces due to the refusal of the unions. In 2008, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi brought together a group of national investors, whom he called "brave captains", but the company still could not cope with the big airlines or the "low cost". A study by Mediobanca, an investment bank that advises Alitalia, estimated that between 1989 and 2014 the state had lost 7.400 million with the airline. A drain to which would be added the last 900 million injected by the Government. The Etihadí Etihad, which controlled 49% of the Italian from 2014 to 2017, was the last foreign bet. When the former flagship airlines have already gone through the privatization phase and the fusion with other groups, Alitalia continues to explore a patriotic way to escape the crisis.

(tagsToTranslate) ismael monzón

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