June 23, 2020 / 2:57 PM / 19 days ago

Alitalia has $263 million in cash as nationalisation looms

ROME (Reuters) - Alitalia had 232 million euros ($263 million) in its coffers on May 31, Italian industry minister Stefano Patuanelli said on Tuesday, as the government prepares to take over an airline that has burned through cash in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The nationalisation of the loss-making business comes after 11 troubled years of private management and three failed restructuring attempts.

The government injected 400 million euros into Alitalia at the beginning of this year, after granting a bridge loan of 900 million euros in 2017, which was not paid back.

“As of May 31 the company had 232 million euros in liquidity ... revenue between January and May amounted to 505 million,” Patuanelli told a parliamentary hearing.

In the same period last year, the carrier recorded 1.1 billion euros in revenues.

Transport Minister Paola De Micheli, also addressing parliament on the nationalisation plan, said the government would invest in planes, “particularly for long-haul” flights.

Rome said last month, as it eased a three-month coronavirus lockdown, that it would inject at least 3 billion euros of fresh capital into Alitalia to relaunch it as a new public company.

The government planned to nationalise the carrier in early June, but the project has not taken shape yet and the ministers did not give a time frame on Tuesday.

“We are re-designing an entire sector of national transport ... (Alitalia) cannot be a small-scale company,” De Micheli told lawmakers.

Rome’s Fiumicino airport, which is run by infrastructure group Atlantia, will remain key, she said, adding the carrier’s new industrial plan would also envisage investments in Milan’s Malpensa airport for long-haul flights.

“We need to reduce the average age of our planes, allowing major savings on fuel and a reduction of the environmental impact and maintenance costs,” De Micheli said.

The ministers gave no information on potential partners for the new airline. Alitalia’s previous alliances with Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM expired last month.

($1 = 0.8830 euros)

writing by Angelo Amante and Gavin Jones; Editing by Mark Potter

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