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'Eskimos welcome' to buy Alitalia

  • Story Highlights
  • Minister: Italy happy to sell Alitalia to anyone willing to turn it around
  • Minister: Italy will consider Eskimos, Chinese to buy loss-making airline
  • Rome scrambling for options to sell carrier, stop it from being shut down
  • Alitalia's auction collapsed last week when the last bidders pulled out
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BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters) -- Italy is happy to sell Alitalia to anyone willing to turn the loss-making national airline around -- no matter whether the new owners are Eskimos or Chinese, an Italian minister says.

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Italy is happy to sell Alitalia to anyone willing to turn the loss-making national airline around.

Embarrassed by the collapse of Alitalia's auction last week when the last bidders pulled out, Rome is now scrambling for new options to sell the airline and prevent it from being shut down.

"If they can make it work, we welcome even Eskimos or the Chinese," said European Affairs Minister Emma Bonino said at a news conference. "That would be satisfying from the point of view of Italian consumers."

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Several bidders in the seven-month auction had pulled out citing restrictive terms imposed by Rome on the sale -- which include maintaining the "Italianness" of the airline. The final contenders included Russia's Aeroflot and a U.S. private equity group.

Another Italian minister last week compared Alitalia to a diseased limb and suggested selling it off for one euro to anyone willing to take it off Rome's hands or letting it go bankrupt. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 Reuters. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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