Alitalia LEX

Sono ore di grande attesa per Alitalia. La colonna LEX del Financial Times dice la sua:

Alitalia auction
Published: January 30 2007 13:03 | Last updated: January 30 2007 13:03

At least some sense still prevails in today’s mergers and acquisitions fever.

No foreign airlines figure among the 11 bidders that have expressed potential interest in buying Alitalia, Italy’s loss-making flag carrier.

The temptation to add their names to the list should have been easy to resist for the likes of Lufthansa or Air France-KLM. Two experienced management teams have already failed to turn Alitalia around. The airline, which currently has no functioning board, was an estimated €380m in the red in 2006, while losing market share. The mystery is why financial buyers, like Texas Pacific Group, the private equity house, or UniCredit, Italy’s largest bank, would be interested.

Alitalia still has a few assets that could be sold off. But it is trading at over 1 times book value, which is itself falling, well above the price Air France paid for KLM, or Lufthansa for the former Swissair. The latter was at least allowed to go bankrupt before negotiating a successful sale. With a market capitalisation of €1.5bn and net debt of €1bn, a potential €2.5bn price tag for Alitalia, an airline with few assets and a tarnished brand, looks way too high.

Financial buyers may, however, be sniffing the opportunity for massive efficiency gains. They should remember that intransigent unions have defeated such efforts in the past. And the government, which is selling its 49.9 per cent stake, will also put obstacles in the way of necessary restructuring. It has already said that any new owner – who, by the way, must have majority Italian representation – must protect Alitalia’s “national identity” and employment levels.

The potential bidders, though, lose nothing by expressing interest at this stage. Although they will not get access to Alitalia’s books, they will presumably get an opportunity to discuss with the government more realistic conditions of sale, and a more realistic price. If they become convinced, during this process, that neither will be forthcoming, there is a real possibility the auction will fail. For the buyers’ sakes, one must hope so.

In pratica dicono che qualunque prezzo vicino ai livelli di borsa attuali sarebbe un suicidio per un eventuale compratore e che molto probabilmente c’è chi partecipa all’asta giusto per guardare Alitalia un po’ più dal di dentro. Direi che concordo al 100%.

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