Alitalia Bosses Said to Meet Prime Minister on Funding Crisis

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta met with senior management of flagship airline Alitalia SpA today to discuss how they might avert its collapse as cash supplies dwindle, two people familiar with the meeting said.

The gathering in Rome was also attended by Alitalia Chief Executive Officer Gabriele Del Torchio and Chairman Roberto Colaninno, together with representatives from banks UniCredit SpA and Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and suppliers and shareholders including fuel-company Eni SpA and Atlantia SpA, said the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are private.

A second meeting is scheduled for this afternoon as concern about Alitalia deepens, the people said. The board is seeking fresh capital from shareholders including Air France-KLM Group, the biggest corporate investor with a 25 percent stake. Air France’s board met last month to assess its position, though the company has said publicly that it needs more time to reflect.

The Italian flag carrier is seeking an injection of at least 100 million euros ($135 million) after the first-half net loss swelled to 294 million euros. Liquidity reserves that include credit lines fell to 128 million euros from 159 million euros at the end of the first quarter, it said last week.

At least some of the shareholders have said they may be interested in getting out. Gilberto Benetton, chairman of Autogrill SpA, told reporters today in Milan that his company would be interested in selling if the conditions are right, without spelling out specifics. Benetton also said he would back an Air France buyout, depending on “the conditions.”

Rome-based Alitalia last week proposed that investors boost funding by completing a subscription of 55 million euros through a bond convertible into stock. Shareholders including Intesa, Italy’s second-largest bank, and Atlantia were scheduled to meet Oct. 14 to vote on the increase.

Air France members on the Alitalia board opposed the plan, news agency Ansa reported, without saying where it got the information. The Franco-Dutch carrier declined to comment.

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