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Italy extends deadline for ITA Airways takeover talks, sources say

MILAN, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Italy has extended to Oct. 31 the deadline for exclusive talks with a consortium led by U.S. private equity fund Certares over a majority stake in ITA Airways, two sources close to the matter said on Friday.

The talks were initially meant to expire on Sept. 30.

Certares, backed by Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines Inc, is willing to pay 350 million euros ($344 million) for a 50% stake plus one share of the state-controlled airline, the sources said.

The offer also envisages a capital increase of about 600 million euros, which would be launched some time after the closing of the deal, though exact timing has yet to be set, the sources added.

Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM plan to become commercial partners of ITA, the successor company to Alitalia, but do not intend to take a stake in the carrier at this stage, they said in August.

The Certares-led consortium was picked by Italy's outgoing government over a rival offer from shipping group MSC and Germany's Lufthansa.

But Giorgia Meloni, the Brothers of Italy party leader who is widely expected to be named prime minister after this month's election victory, has said it is important to keep a flag carrier. She has also asked the outgoing administration to put the sale on hold.

The new government is expected to take office in mid-October. ($1 = 1.0188 euros) (Reporting by Elisa Anzolin Editing by David Goodman)