Air France board to meet on Alitalia bid: Bloomberg

PARIS/ROME (Reuters) - Air France-KLM's board will meet on September 23 to decide whether to bid for control of Italian airline Alitalia SpA , Bloomberg reported.

The Franco-Dutch group, which already owns 25 percent of Alitalia, has resolved to decide whether to boost the holding by the end of this year, Bloomberg said, quoting a person familiar with the plan.

An Air France spokesman said the company would not comment on rumours.

Other shareholders in the loss-making Italian carrier include bank Intesa Sanpaolo , road operator Atlantia and holding company IMMSI , the owner of scooter-maker Piaggio. Some of these investors might sell out after the expiry in mid-October of a lock-up period.

Italian transport minister Maurizio Lupi said on Thursday he would meet with his French counterpart Frederic Cuvillier next week to discuss, among other things, the fate of Alitalia and Air France's plans for the group.

"I will meet the minister ... we will also speak of Alitalia," the minister said on Thursday.

Alitalia, which quadrupled its net loss to 280 million euros ($374 million) in 2012 compared with the year before, said in July it needed 300 million euros this year to keep running but expected to break even by 2015.

Earlier this month the carrier hired boutique investment bank Leonardo & Co to help tackle its liquidity crisis that may see it running out of cash before the year's end.

Only Air France-KLM is seen as having a real interest in remaining an industrial partner of the carrier, fueling speculation over whether the group would increase its stake or inject capital into the group.

Alitalia and Abu Dhabi-based Etihad have frequently been mentioned in the context of a possible tie-up, but so far Etihad has said there were no talks between the two firms beyond those on code sharing.

A source also added this month Etihad was not keen on another investment in a European carrier.

(Reporting by Gilles Guillaume, Alberto Sisto and Agnieszka Flak; writing by Geert De Clercq; editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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