August 1, 2014 / 3:22 PM / 3 years ago

Alitalia board approves an increase in capital hike -source

ROME (Reuters) - The board of Italian airline Alitalia has approved a capital hike of up to 300 million euros (299.95 million pounds), raising the upper limit to help pave the way for the sale of a stake to Etihad Airways, a person close to the matter said on Friday.

Italy’s government is keen to sell a 49 percent stake in its debt-laden flag carrier to the Abu Dhabi airline and conclude talks, which have dragged on for more than seven months.

Last week Alitalia shareholders approved a capital hike of up to 250 million euros to cover any losses the airline might make before a deal is finalised and to pay for past liabilities.

The board of Alitalia, which has made a profit only a few times in its 68-year history, met on Friday at Rome’s Fiumicino airport.

Chief Executive Gabriele del Torchio said after the meeting: “We have received a response from Etihad. It is positive, but some things still need to be cleared up.”

Talks between Alitalia and Etihad have been held up by disagreement over how to handle the Italian airline’s 800 million euro debt pile and plans to cut some of its 14,000 staff, which have provoked outrage among Italian labour unions.

Alitalia shareholders will vote on the bigger capital hike at a meeting on Aug. 8.

($1 = 0.7452 Euros)

Reporting by Antonella Cinelli and Stefano Bernabei, writing by Isla Binnie, editing by James Mackenzie and Jane Baird

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