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Hopes for new Alitalia investor fade after Rome denial

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Hopes for new Alitalia investor fade after Rome denial
FILE PHOTO: An Alitalia airplane is seen before take off from the Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, June 21, 2018. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini   -   Copyright  STEFANO RELLANDINI(Reuters)
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ROME (Reuters) – The Italian government denied media speculation on Friday it had sought to tempt infrastructure group Toto Holding to invest in loss-making airline Alitalia, dampening hopes that the flag carrier could soon be rescued.

The office of Economic Development Minister Luigi Di Maio denied a report by news agency Ansa which said the minister and one of Toto’s controlling family shareholders had met in southern Italy this week to discuss Alitalia.

“There have been no contacts between Luigi Di Maio and the Toto group on the matter of Alitalia,” a spokesman said.

The government is desperate to orchestrate a rescue of Alitalia to avoid mass layoffs at the airline.

Alitalia, which has been under special administration since 2017 when workers rejected the latest in a long line of rescue plans, needs to find investors ready to inject fresh funds by April 30.

State railway operator Ferrovie dello Stato and U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines are ready to contribute to a new rescue bid worth around 1 billion euros (863 million pounds), but there is still a shortfall of around 400 million euros.

The government has said it could invest around 145 million euros in equity in any rescue vehicle.

A person familiar with the matter said on Friday that the denial by Di Maio’s ministry appeared to pour cold water on media reports that the Toto family, which invested in a previous Alitalia rescue in 2008, was set to inject more money into the ailing airline.

Daily newspaper La Repubblica reported on Friday that Toto Holding was close to agreeing to invest in Alitalia and could make an announcement as early as next Tuesday.

Toto Holding declined to comment on Friday.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante and Silvia Aloisi; Editing by Mark Bendeich)

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