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MENAFN - AFP - 04/05/2014
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(MENAFN - AFP) Etihad Airways chief James Hogan declined to comment Sunday on the progress of talks to acquire a stake in Italy's debt-laden national carrier Alitalia.

"I've got no comment," Hogan told a news conference in Abu Dhabi when asked if the talks were still on.

Italian media had reported that Alitalia's chief Gabriele Del Torchio will travel to Abu Dhabi on Monday.

A source close to the negotiations told AFP last month that it was "optimistic" to think an offer could be imminent, and said that talks that had taken place between Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Hogan were "a good sign".

Italian Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi said in April that an assessment of Alitalia's accounts had been completed and hinted that an offer from Etihad could be imminent.

The two airlines have been in contact since December, and in February said they had entered a "final phase" in the process.

However, Alitalia is laden with debts and the negotiations have been complicated.

Etihad is reportedly planning to acquire a stake of between 40 and 49 percent in the Italian carrier -- below the 49.9 percent limit for non-European airlines.

Alitalia struck a deal with trade unions in February to cut the equivalent of 1,900 jobs, but some reports indicate that Etihad may want more layoffs.

Etihad is expanding rapidly and has bought minor shares in several smaller carriers including Air Berlin and India's Jet Airways as it competes with larger Gulf rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways.



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