A group of Italian investors has held exploratory talks with the government on the acquisition of a significant stake in state-controlled flag carrier Alitalia.

Alpi Eagles president, Paolo Sinigaglia, heading the move, says his company's shareholders and others may make a bid. The regional carrier's major backers include the Benetton, Merovach and Stefanel families.

Alitalia recently formed an alliance with Air France and joined the associated SkyTeam alliance. No share swap is involved, although this may change long-term.

Sinigaglia says the Air France alliance is not a problem for the proposed "Italian" privatisation of Alitalia, but he prefers "not to see Alitalia becoming an Air France creature. A private, part- privatisation could benefit everybody, while I see as illogical a privatisation involving as a main beneficiary a foreign, state-owned entity."

However, the Italian treasury says privatisation talk is premature, and Alitalia's future is being assessed.

Source: Flight International