Pressure mounts on Italy to save ailing Alitalia

Alitalia, which employs more than 11,000 people, has struggled to compete with low-cost European rivals and was placed in administration in 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 15 April 2019
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Pressure mounts on Italy to save ailing Alitalia

  • Unions warned this weekend that the national carrier risked being ‘euthanized’
  • Alitalia, which employs more than 11,000 people, has struggled to compete with low-cost European rivals

ROME: Concern was mounting in Italy on Monday over the fate of the troubled national airline Alitalia, with just 15 days until the deadline for the state railway company to submit a concrete takeover offer.
Unions warned this weekend that the carrier risked being “euthanized,” spooking Italy’s populist coalition government, which can ill afford a fresh Alitalia disaster as it campaigns for May’s European elections.
Italy’s Ferrovie dello Stato (FS) submitted an offer to buy Alitalia at the end of October, but does not want to hold any more than 30 percent in the airline.
FS had been discussing a potential partnership with both Atlanta-based Delta and EasyJet, Britain’s biggest low-cost airline, but the latter said last month that it was pulling out of the negotiations.
In addition to FS’s 30 percent, Delta is interested in taking 15 percent, and the Italian Treasury another 15 percent, according to Italian media reports.
In that case, one or more partners would still need to be found for the remaining 40 percent. The binding offer must be submitted by April 30.
According to media reports, Delta is in contact with the Chinese company China Eastern, and has also approached Italian infrastructure group Atlantia.
However, any deal with Atlantia would be toxic for the government, which has repeatedly lambasted the company.
Atlantia’s majority-owned subsidiary Autostrade came under fire last summer after a large bridge in Genoa collapsed, killing more than 40 people.
Should the FS bid fail, German airline Lufthansa has expressed interest in Alitalia, but has ruled out any deal that involved the Italian state and would likely cut thousands of jobs.
Three unions for Alitalia pilot and cabin crews — ANPAC, ANPAV and ANP — warned in a statement Saturday that the situation risked deteriorating further with a June 30 deadline for the repayment of a €900 million ($1 billion) state loan.
The unions said they would not sit back and watch the “state euthanasia, and are ready to mobilize and open direct talks with possible industrial and financial partners who would guarantee a credible launch of the new Alitalia.”
The airline, which employs more than 11,000 people, has struggled to compete with low-cost European rivals and was placed in administration in 2017.


Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

Updated 23 April 2019
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Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. plans up to $1.07bn sukuk sale this year

  • The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios
  • SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year

RIYADH: Saudi Real Estate Refinance Co. (SRC), modelled on US mortgage finance firm Fannie Mae, aims to issue up to 4 billion riyals ($1.07 billion) of long-term sukuk this year, its chief executive said on Tuesday.

The plan by SRC, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign Public Investment Fund, comes as it prepares to purchase more home loan portfolios from mortgage financing companies and banks to boost the Kingdom’s secondary mortgage market.

SRC, formed in 2017, is also keen to tap foreign institutional investors for its debt sale this year, Fabrice Susini told Reuters in an interview.

“Our strategy is clearly to tap the market twice this year,” he said. “We are really looking at probably issuing something between ... 2 and 4 billion riyal that we may be issuing in two tranches.

He said SRC was looking at sukuk in the 10 to 15-year range, to help minimize refinancing risks. “Generally speaking we are trying to issue as long as possible,” Susini said.

He said the company was assessing whether it could also issue bonds in currencies other than the local riyal.

In March, SRC completed a 750 million riyal sukuk issue with multiple tenors, under a program that allows it to issue up to 11 billion riyals of local currency denominated Islamic bonds.

“The rule of the game for us is, like many projects across the Kingdom, attract liquidity from foreign investors,” Susini said.

He said SRC had spent 1.2 billion riyals from its balance sheet buying mortgages from local mortgage financing companies and provided liquidity to these firms.

It has also signed initial accords with several commercial banks to acquire housing mortgage portfolios.

Saudi Arabia’s housing ministry is targeting the mortgage market to reach a total value of 502 billion riyals by 2020 from around 300 billion riyals now.

The government wants to increase activity in the real estate market as it moves to revitalize the economy and is taking steps to reform the sector as part of its 2030 reform plan.

It has been working with developers and local banks to counter a shortage of affordable housing — one of the country’s biggest social and economic problems. Saudi Arabia wants 60 percent of its nationals to own homes by 2020, up from 47 percent in 2016.

The size of real estate financing relative to its gross domestic product is 5 percent in Saudi Arabia compared to 69 percent in the United States, 74 percent in the United Kingdom and 43 pct in Canada, the housing ministry has said.

“The goal of SRC in this market was to make sure that we will be able to refinance at least around 10 percent of the market in 2020, and 20 percent of the market by 2028,” Susini told Reuters.