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No last ditch deal for Alitalia as Etihad backs Board decision

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Alitalia Airbus A320 is parked at Linate airport in Milan Italy

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on Wednesday that Italy's failing flagship carrier Alitalia can not be nationalised, after workers rejected a restructuring plan to keep the airline in business. The deal would have laid off some 980 employees instead of 1,338 firstly proposed by the company, and cut wages of flight crews by 8 percent.

The airline said after a board meeting it would "start preparing the procedures provided by law" and a person close to the company said the board would seek shareholder approval to request the appointment of a special administrator.

Italian Minister of Labour and Social Policies, Giuliano Poletti, has dispelled any notion that Alitalia (AZ, Rome Fiumicino) could be renationalized after staff voted on Monday to reject a restructuring programme.

The government had warned that there was no alternative to the plan which called for 1,700 job losses and an eight-percent salary cut.

Alitalia's flight operations remain unchanged for now, the company said in a statement.

"Given the impossibility of recapitalisation, the board made a decision to initiate the procedures provided for by law and convened a shareholders' meeting on 27 April in order to deliberate on them", the airline says. In 2014, the Abu Dhabi-based company vowed to help boost the value of the Italian airline and promised to make it profitable again by 2017.

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In view of such cuts, it would have unlocked 2 billion euros (2.18 billion USA dollars) of capital increase, including more than 900 million of fresh resources, according to Alitalia. The Italian government could then appoint a commissioner to assess whether it can be overhauled or should be wound up.

"Alitalia's shareholders, including Etihad Airways, have provided vast amounts of financial and commercial support during the past three years". Jointly with the Italian shareholders, Etihad had reaffirmed its strong commitment and principal willingness to support the airline with a package worth almost €2 billion in aggregate to help fund Alitalia's new five-year business plan.

Italian daily La Stampa said on Tuesday that Etihad may try to sell its Alitalia stake to German flagship carrier Lufthansa, but cited no sources.

UniCredit SpA, Italy's largest bank, said it has now lost nearly 500 million euros on Alitalia.

Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said he had been disappointed by staff's rejection of a rescue plan involving deep job and salary cuts, and reiterated that the state could not and would not step in.

It's the latest twist in the decades-long saga of decline for the loss-making company, which has been through multiple bailouts and restructurings but never managed to compete with the booming low-priced carriers in Europe.

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