Ailing Italian flag carrier Alitalia has revealed its eighth consecutive year of losses despite small increases in passenger and cargo traffic.

Figures presented for 2006 show an operating deficit of €266 million ($353 million) compared to a loss of €48 million for 2005. Losses before taxes nearly tripled, to 405.2 million euros in 2006.

Alitalia, which is up for sale, blames continuing strikes, the increased cost of fuel and ever-tougher competition from low-cost carriers. It has forecast improved performance for 2007 with revenues increasing to around €4.7 billion. 

The Italian government currently holds a 49.9% stake in the airline, but at the end of last year launched a tender to sell at least 30.1%. Recently it announced it would increase the share it would sell to 39.9%.

Five companies have been shortlisted for the privatisation and have to submit non-binding preliminary bids by 16 April.