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DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ryanair (RYA.I) has submitted an expression of interest to administrators trying to sell troubled airline Alitalia, but is interested in cooperating with the business rather than buying it, the Irish low-cost carrier said on Wednesday.
Alitalia filed in May to be put under special administration for the second time in less than a decade, starting a process that will lead to the loss-making airline being overhauled, sold off or wound up.
Administrators said on Tuesday they had received 32 expressions of interest before the deadline to submit potential offers expired on Monday, but did not provide any names.
"We have submitted an expression of interest," a Ryanair spokesman said in an emailed statement. "As previously stated, we are not interested in buying Alitalia. However, we have offered to feed Alitalia’s long haul traffic."
Two weeks ago Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said he planned to submit an expression of interest in order to participate in the process rather than to purchase the airline, and that he believed the Italian carrier had a viable future if sensibly restructured.
Ryanair said it wanted to provide short-haul traffic to feed Alitalia's long-haul network and could deploy up to 20 aircraft at two weeks' notice this summer if Alitalia cut capacity significantly.
The spokesman did not say on what terms Ryanair might provide feeder flights, but it has offered to link up to other long-haul carriers in recent months on condition Ryanair would not be responsible for any missed connections.
Alitalia has refused a similar offer in the past.
The Italian government appointed three commissioners to assess whether Alitalia can be restructured, and has given them six months to come up with a plan.
Several Italian media said none of the expressions of interest were for the entire airline but only for certain assets, such as fleet or airport slots.
The government has repeatedly said it would prefer to sell the airline in one block, partly to minimize the impact on its 12,500 staff. It has ruled out re-nationalizing Alitalia.
The commissioners will now examine the submissions and select those that will be given access to Alitalia's data room.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said this week the German airline would look at any opportunities that arise in Italy, but it had no plans to buy Alitalia.
He added Lufthansa would look at Alitalia planes should they come up for sale.
Turkish Airlines denied reports it was interested in Alitalia's assets.
Alitalia could not immediately be reached for comment.
Reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin, Agnieszka Flak in Milan and Ceyda Caglayan in Istanbul; Editing by Mark Potter