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Sun 1 May 2016 12:28 PM

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Etihad-backed Alitalia considers buying stake in Air Malta

CEO Cramer Ball said the airline would decide whether to invest in loss-making Air Malta if its due diligence on the airline proves successful

Etihad-backed Alitalia considers buying stake in Air Malta

Italy's Alitalia may decide to buy a 49 percent stake in Air Malta to boost its services to customers and accelerate consolidation in the aviation industry, its CEO has said.

Alitalia, in which Abu Dhabi-based carrier Etihad Airways bought a 49 percent stake as part of a 1.76 billion-euro ($1.91 billion) rescue plan, has vowed to return to profit by 2017.

Etihad denied a report in Maltese media two weeks ago that claimed that it was about to make an investment in Air Malta.

Alitalia chief executive Cramer Ball, however, said the airline would decide whether to invest in loss-making Air Malta if its due diligence on the airline proves successful and once it is certain the move would not affect its own restructuring plan.

"We have decided to look closely to see whether Air Malta can fit into our strategic growth, particularly how our networks can complement each other in areas such as southern Italy," Ball said in a statement.

"The future of the commercial aviation industry has to be one of consolidation."

Malta's Tourism Minister Zammit Lewis said the deal would give Air Malta access to Alitalia's global partnerships through improved connectivity and boost the island's tourism industry.

Air Malta Chairperson Maria Micallef said the negotiations were at an early stage and the state-owned company would cease talks with other airlines now that the memorandum of understanding with Alitalia had been signed.

Air Malta hopes to conclude the technical negotiations by the end of July, she added.

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