Alitalia chief welcomes possible Abu Dhabi investment in Rome airport

ROME // Alitalia’s chief executive said yesterday that he welcomes a potential acquisition of a stake in Rome’s airport by an Abu Dhabi investment fund.

“We are perfectly aware of the ongoing discussions between Abu Dhabi Investment Authority [Adia] and Aeroporti di Roma. Adia is a suitable stakeholder to be involved in these discussions,” said Silvano Cassano, Alitalia’s new chief executive at a joint press conference held by the Italian national carrier and Etihad Airways in Rome.

“We welcome any investment from Adia in Aeroporti di Roma, but of course we consider ourselves spectators.”

Adia, however, declined to comment when contacted by The National.

The Italian press has previously reported that Atlantia, the company that controls Aeroporti di Roma, is in discussions with several investors from the Arabian Gulf for a potential stake sale.

The company reportedly hired Goldman Sachs and Boston Consulting Group in October to advise on the sale of a 20 per cent holding worth around €800 million (Dh3.4 billion) to interested sovereign and infrastructure funds.

Among the reported bidders are the Kuwait Investment Authority and Qatar Holding.In 2013, according to Airports Council International, Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumucino airport was the world’s 34th busiest with more than 36 million passengers.

The presence of Adia in the discussions follows Etihad's acquisition of a 49 per cent stake in the Italian carrier last year in a deal worth more than €1.7bn.

Investing in European airports falls in line with Adia’s strategy to target fast-growing high cash flow hubs.

It already owns a minority stake in the UK’s Gatwick Airport, which grew at twice the rate of London’s Heathrow last year in terms of passenger numbers.

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