Etihad Says Open to `Potentially Deepening' Ties With Alitalia

(Bloomberg) -- Etihad Airways, the biggest single shareholder in Alitalia SpA, is open to deepening its ties with the insolvent airline after investing about 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in the Italian company.

“Strong ties continue to exist between Alitalia and Etihad Aviation Group and we remain open to exploring all options to maintain and potentially deepen those ties for mutual benefit,” an Etihad spokesperson told Bloomberg when asked about Alitalia’s bankruptcy sale process.

Alitalia, which was declared insolvent May 11 after losing 205 million euros in the first two months of the year, has started an administration process aimed at finding investors willing to invest in the carrier. Expressions of interest for the Rome-based airline were to be submitted by 6 p.m. on Monday, according to documents posted on the carrier’s website.

The Italian airline has about 3 billion euros in debt and assets worth 921 million euros. Investors can submit bids for the entire company, assets or propose a restructuring plan, according to the Alitalia tender document. Etihad failed to turn around Alitalia after buying a 49 percent stake in 2014.

Delta Air Lines Inc. may be interested in submitting an expression of interest on Monday, Italian daily Il Messaggero reported June 3, without citing anyone. Alitalia may also get offers from private equity funds and Chinese investors, the newspaper said. Delta, asked to comment on the report, said in a statement that it “continues to monitor Alitalia’s progress since it entered into the administration process.”

The U.S. carrier is a long-standing partner of Alitalia as part of its trans-Atlantic joint venture with Air France-KLM Group. Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Ryanair Holdings PLC and British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group SA have said they have no interest in participating in Alitalia’s rescue.

Alitalia commissioners are preparing an 18-month business plan that will be submitted by the end of July. Alitalia had no comment on the matter.