By Giuseppe Fonte and Francesca Landini
MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s industry ministry is open to discussions with any investor interested in the rescue of troubled carrier Alitalia, including infrastructure group Atlantia, two sources with knowledge of the matter said on Friday.
The ministry is leading talks between the administrators managing the loss-making Alitalia and state-owned railway group Ferrovie dello Stato, which is trying to set up a consortium to buy the carrier.
So far Ferrovie has secured the commitment of Delta Air Lines but it is struggling to find another partner who is willing to invest more than 300 million euros (£267 million) in Alitalia, which has a long history of financial woes.
An involvement of Atlantia could be a turning point in the rescue effort led by Ferrovie, but sources have previously said the plan still lacked a political green light.
Atlantia is in bad terms with the governing coalition, in particular with the 5-Star Movement, after the deadly collapse of a motorway bridge it managed last August.
5-Star head Luigi Di Maio, who is also Italy’s industry minister, have blamed Atlantia for poor maintenance of the motorway network, adding the government would revoke the group’s motorway concession. Atlantia has always denied wrongdoing.
The ministry on Friday postponed for the fourth time a deadline for Ferrovie to present a binding rescue bid for Alitalia, extending it to July 15.
“The extension is aimed at giving every investor interested the opportunity to come forward … everyone, including Atlantia,” one of the sources said.
The second source, a 5-Star top official, confirmed the ministry was open to discussions with any potential suitor.
Atlantia could chip in as a way to mend its relations with the government, sources have told Reuters.
(Editing by David Evans)