ROME, March 27 A leading light of the
anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, Italy's most popular
political party, said on Monday the Italian state should take
control of loss-making airline Alitalia.
Italy's flag carrier, which has made an annual profit only a
few times in its 70-year history, is in a race against time to
win union support for its latest plan to unlock financing and
avoid having to ground planes.
The government is brokering last-minute talks with labour
unions over proposed cuts to jobs and salaries, but has ruled
out a bailout like those which saw Alitalia absorb billions in
public money before it was privatised in 2008.
"The process needs to lead to the state having governance of
the company again," 5-Star deputy Luigi Di Maio told news agency
AGI in an interview broadcast on the Internet.
Italy's post office has said it will not repeat an
investment that kept Alitalia aloft in 2013 before Gulf airline
Etihad became its top investor with a 49 percent stake.
Di Maio, 30, who is widely tipped to be 5-Star's candidate
for prime minister, said the state should invest in Alitalia's
future but added he did not know what steps needed to be taken
to put Alitalia under public control.
Alitalia could be "a springboard for our economy in emerging
countries, in the United States and in Latin America", he added.
Years of poor management have been blamed for daily
haemorrhages of at least half a million euros, and Etihad's
turnaround plan has been stymied by competition from low-cost
airlines and high-speed rail services.
Sources say Alitalia risks running out of cash in the coming
weeks unless shareholders agree to pump in more money.
(Reporting by Isla Binnie and Massimiliano Di Giorgio; Editing
by Gareth Jones)