Alitalia starts bankruptcy proceedings as Etihad cuts off funds

By Bloomberg News, May 3 2017
Alitalia starts bankruptcy proceedings as Etihad cuts off funds

Alitalia started bankruptcy proceedings for the second time in a decade, throwing the survival of Italy’s flag carrier in doubt after the airline failed to fend off budget rivals and workers rejected job cuts and concessions linked to a €2 billion (US$2.2 billion) recapitalization plan aimed at salvaging the cash-strapped Italian airline.

Shareholders voted unanimously to file for special administration, the carrier said in a statement following a meeting on Tuesday.

During a cabinet meeting convened in the evening, the Italian government approved the start of special administration approved a €600 million (US$655 million) bridge loan that will last for six months.

Alitalia, which was mainly backed by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, last week said it had exhausted all options to stay solvent. Etihad, which owns 49 percent of the carrier, said it won’t extend additional funding.

“It is clear this business requires fundamental and far-reaching restructuring to survive and grow,” Etihad Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said in a statement. “Without the support of all stakeholders for that restructuring, we are not prepared to continue to invest.”

While Etihad withdrew financial support, the Gulf carrier said it’s ready to work with Alitalia as a “commercial partner,” which effectively means that codeshare agreements continue. Etihad passengers booked on Alitalia flights can proceed with travel plans as normal, it said.

No more lifelines

Alitalia, which missed out on a round of consolidation that shored up other European flag carriers, has seen its standing further eroded since a previous bankruptcy in 2008.

Etihad’s stake purchase, part of a €1.76 billion rescue of Alitalia in 2014, was a major chance as the Persian Gulf carrier sought to transform the struggling company into a five-star operator.

The plans never panned out as budget rivals Ryanair and EasyJet further ate into its position in Italy, and a wave of terror attacks in Europe hurt tourism in the region.

With the insolvency filing, Alitalia’s board of directors “acknowledged the serious economic and financial situation of the company,” the airline said in the statement.

Job cuts, assett sales to follow?

The administrators will take over the business and present a new strategy that may entail asset sales, reduced operations and job cuts aimed at making the airline viable within two years. If a turnaround isn’t possible the administrators may order the carrier to be liquidated.

The airline, which has 12,500 employees, has been stumbling in the wake of a previous bankruptcy in 2008.

The Italian government has already ruled out a bailout.

Italian finance minister Pier Carlo Padoan said last week that the government will not pump more cash into boosting the airline’s capital. Alitalia is “a private company” and its fate is “in the hands of shareholders and management," Padoan told lawmakers in Rome on Thursday.

Economic Development Minister Carlo Calenda on Apr. 30 said he hopes the carrier can be sold as "a whole, not in pieces."

Shrinking share

Alitalia’s years of underperformance have diminished its standing within the Italian economy and the aviation industry.

The carrier’s share of the Italian market slumped to 18 percent as of 2015 from 23 percent in 2007, according to an analysis by Ugo Arrigo and Andra Giuricin of Milan Bicocca University.

Ryanair, Europe’s biggest discount carrier, now ranks No. 1 with a 23 percent share, up from 12 percent a decade earlier.

The Italian airline had a net loss of €199 million in 2015, the last year for which it has published figures.

The carrier had lost almost €3 billion since it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009, the study shows.

The special administrators will have 180 days to come up with a new plan, with a possible extension of 90 days. The process, available for large insolvent companies, is aimed at protecting a company’s assets and workers through reorganization.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

25 Jul 2013

Total posts 66

Does anyone know if this news is likely to affect Alitalia flight operations in the next month or two? I have several bookings with them in Italy later in the month...! Oh man.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 436

Nothing will happen quickly. The special administrators have 6 months to come up with a plan, with a possible 3 month extension. The unions, government etc will then object to the plan, the airline will continue to haemorrhage money and in about a years time they'll be right back to where they are now. I would be very surprised if anything changes before Christmas.

10 Jun 2015

Total posts 6

What a surprise... the unions have rejected the plan so they can save 1600 jobs and they've put 12,500'in jeapordy instead.  So short sighted.

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 382

Unions at their best

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

This has to prove why Alan Joyce should be praised and not derided like he so often is.

He had the guts to ground the fleet to stop damaging union thuggery to the business and us passengers and take strong action and control of Qantas against the unions, and what's the result?

An airline back to profit, employees getting bonuses and investment flowing into the business with new aircraft and routes opening up.

And was safety threatened as suggested by the unions?Which airline is still ranked number 1......

Unions can be a force for good, but boy can they just as easily screw a business as we are seeing in this article.

I strongly suggest air Atalia management and unions take a long hard look at Qantas.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

11 Mar 2015

Total posts 192

what can you expect from this company-Italy is going down just like Greece-I don't think that the government is willing to pour more money into this bottomless pit which Alitalia is and always was.Flew with them twice in the past but gave them a big miss after the crew didn't even bother to tell smokers to put out the cigarettes at the back of the plane when it was supposed to be strictly non smoking flights all the way from Rome to Singapore and Sydney.Etihad bet on the wrong mule with them for sure....

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

13 Mar 2015

Total posts 79

It's so sad to seeing that icon of Italy disappearing from the aviation industry. Italians dislike Germans but they love LH and many Latin cultures, they prefer the "foreign" things better than their own things... I tried the new AZ and it was fantastic...actually was the best service in Economy I ever had between North America and Europe, on the return was PE and it was the best service I ever had in PE between Europe and Canada, I would say that similar to AF with more friendly staff and way much better than LH, AC, BA and SK. Definitely AZ is a much better airline today... so sad seeing this bad news

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Mar 2015

Total posts 10

Just tried to access the Alitalia Casa lounge at gate e41 in Rome. Etihad platinum Travelling business on etihad. Apparently the etihad deal to use this lounge finished on sept 3 and passengers are now directed to the plaza premium lounge. Staff let me in but did advise teh arrangement with etihad is no more. As for the lounge itself - there won’t be much to miss!

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