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Alitalia’s directors have approved the sale of a 25 percent stake to Air France-KLM for just over 320 million euros.

That came one day before the relaunch of Alitalia which has been merged with its smaller domestic rival Air One. A consortium of Italian investors, known as CAI, will have three quarters of the streamlined carrier. They said the fact that Air France-KLM’s is taking a 25 percent stake will mean synergies of 720 million euros over the next three years. As the news came through, Alitalia workers demonstrated against how they are being treated in the reorganisation. One cabin crew member said those working on contracts have been left in limbo: “We’re here to stress how precarious our position is, nobody has thought about us, we’re like ghosts, without any value. After ten years of service we’re being thrown away, just like that.” The restive workforce, which has a history of wild-cat strikes, is just one of the problems facing the ‘new’ Alitalia. The investors believe they can restore the airline to operating profit by late next year. But it has made a net profit only once in the past nine years and is expected to record an operating loss of one billion euros for 2008. It also faces stepped up competition from Germany’s Lufthansa which passed on taking a stake in Alitalia in favour of setting up Lufthansa Italia – flying from Milan to eight European capitals. In addition, European low-cost airlines have complained to the European Commission claiming Alitalia is continuing to receive million of euros of illegal state aid.
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