Etihad to meet Alitalia's banks this week

Reuters

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Etihad Airways is still talking to Alitalia's creditors as part of a due diligence before a possible investment by the Abu Dhabi airline in the troubled Italian carrier, Etihad's chief executive said.

"With regards to the structural issues, we are in talks with the banks. We are meeting this week in Rome," James Hogan told a media briefing on Tuesday at the Singapore Airshow.

Alitalia and Etihad are in the final stages of due diligence and sources close to the matter say a deal could involve Etihad buying a 40 percent stake for as much as 300 million euros ($409 million).

Last week, Etihad and Alitalia's creditors held talks ahead of a potential investment in the carrier by Etihad, the chief executive of Italy's largest bank by assets UniCredit (CRDI.MI) said.

Hogan said there was still no certainty of a deal, which depends on how the talks progress between both parties.

"We have a task force in Rome sitting alongside the Alitalia teams to see if we can draw up a plan. With respect to my mandate, I won't do anything that takes us off track at Etihad. If we come to an agreement, it will be an Alitalia plan with us as partners," Hogan said.

"At this stage, we are still on due diligence. I can't say whether we are going to complete a deal or not at this stage."

Investing in Alitalia would be Etihad's first sizeable investment in a European legacy carrier and brings with it a host of thorny issues that other potential investors such as Air France-KLM (AF.PA) have not been able to resolve.

"Due diligence is a confidential process and we are working through the issues. And both parties have to agree on a plan, moving forward. And that's where it starts, that's where it finishes."

Lacking large populations in their own countries, the Gulf airlines need to feed more traffic from other countries through their hubs in order to fill their planes after a massive order spree at last year's Dubai Airshow.

(Reporting by Anshuman Daga; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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