Alitalia accepts Etihad's $1.7-bn investment offer

Troubled Italian flag carrier Alitalia has accepted an offer by Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways to invest in the company, and has decided to move fast to conclude a deal, the company's chief executive said.

Etihad is prepared to invest up to €1.25 billion ($1.70 billion) in Alitalia over the next four years, Italy's transport minister said

Alitalia, which received a €500 million government-engineered rescue package last year, risks running out of cash by August unless it can find a cash-rich partner.

''The board of directors of Alitalia-Compagnia Aerea Italian SpA, chaired by Roberto Colaninno, met on Friday in Rome to approve the proposal presented by Etihad Airways for a partnership between Alitalia and Etihad Airways. The board delegated the mandate to negotiate the contract to the president and chief executive officer,'' the airline said in a web site release.

"Today the Etihad plan was approved, and the board delegated to me and the chairman to study and rapidly come up with a draft of the final contract," Alitalia CEO Gabriele Del Torchio said.

Alitalia's board of directors also approved the financial statement for 2013, which will be presented during the first shareholders meeting on 29 June, and during the second meeting, which will be held on 25 July.

The board also approved provisions and asset write-downs for €233 million, ''in preparation for future strategies.'' The airline attributed this to charges and devaluations.

The company's 2013 balance sheet losses, excluding the write-down, amounted to about 290 million euros.

Alitalia is still negotiating with banks about restructuring about 700 million euros in debt, Del Torchio said.

"We're proceeding, but you must understand that the sums are not small. We're still working on it," he said.