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Alitalia’s Colaninno Doesn’t Rule Out Merger With Air France

Nov. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Alitalia SpA Chairman Roberto Colaninno said he doesn’t rule out a merger with Air France-KLM Group once the Italian carrier improves its profitability.

“Our goal is to make the company profitable, then we’ll talk about other plans,” Colaninno told reporters today in Milan. Asked if he rules out a combination with Air France, which owns 25 percent of Rome-based Alitalia, Colaninno said, “in life, I don’t exclude anything.”

Chief Executive Officer Rocco Sabelli favors a merger with the French carrier, Ansa news agency reported Nov. 2., citing an advance copy of a book by journalist Bruno Vespa, who quotes comments by Sabelli.

Air France has no immediate plans to increase its stake in Alitalia, CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeon told reporters Nov. 17.

Alitalia on Oct. 28 reported third-quarter net income of 39 million euros ($52.3 million) compared with 1 million euros the year before. The company expects to report a full-year loss this year and break even at operating level in 2011, Sabelli told Il Sole 24 Ore in an Oct. 30 interview.

Alitalia also today signed a code-sharing agreement with Jet Airways (India) Ltd. and wants the Mumbai-based airline to join the SkyTeam alliance led by Air France and Delta Air Lines Inc., Sabelli said.

“We’re studying their proposal,” Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal said today in Milan. “We haven’t decided yet.” Jet Airways will operate a non-stop Milan-New Delhi flight beginning Dec. 5 and also plans to add Rome-Mumbai service in winter 2011.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tommaso Ebhardt in Milan at tebhardt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.

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