Etihad enters final phase of Alitalia investment talks

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Gulf carrier Etihad Airways has entered the final phase of due diligence over a possible investment in Alitalia, the two airlines say in a statement updating the status of talks.

Etihad has been in talks with the struggling Italian carrier since late last year as Alitalia looks to secure a fresh strategic investor. The Gulf carrier already hold stakes in a number of carriers, including European operators Aer Lingus, Air Serbia, Air Berlin and the recently rebranded Darwin Airlines, as part of its equity partnership strategy.

"During the next 30 days both companies and their advisors will determine how a common strategy can be developed which meets the objectives of both parties," the airlines say in a joint statement.

"Any issues that may prevent the establishment of an appropriate business plan will have to be resolved to ensure the plan can be implemented to move Alitalia to sustainable profitability."

Italian finance group Intesa Sanpaolo is currently the biggest shareholder in Alitalia following its participation in the Italian flag carrier's recent €300 million ($410 million) capital injection. Existing Alitalia strategic partner Air France-KLM, which did not take part in the capital injection, now holds a 7% stake in Alitalia.