Tourism Min­is­ter does not say whether Al­i­talia in­di­cated to Air Malta that it wants out of deal

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Kevin Schem­bri Or­land

Tourism Min­is­ter Ed­ward Zam­mit Lewis said that Air Malta ne­go­ti­a­tions are on­go­ing but, when asked, did not say whether Al­i­talia has in­di­cated the pos­si­bil­ity that it might want to back out of the Air Malta deal.

Asked by The Malta In­de­pen­dent whether any Mal­tese of­fi­cial had re­ceived in­di­ca­tions Al­i­talia wanted to pull out of the deal, the min­is­ter said: “I will try and an­swer you within the lim­its of com­mer­cial con­fi­den­tial­ity, as I am tied to cer­tain con­fi­den­tial­ity as a mem­ber of govern­ment. From the other side I re­spect the right to in­for­ma­tion. Ne­go­ti­a­tions are on­go­ing. We are try­ing to see what kind of deal can oc­cur; that is a good deal for Air Malta where Al­i­talia and Eti­had are in­volved. Al­i­talia are part­ners of Eti­had Air­ways. We are see­ing what best part­ner­ship can be found, (one) that re­spects the cir­cum­stances and needs of the Mal­tese air­line.

“We have one air­line, and it is im­por­tant for tourism and is the only na­tional air­line. We are try­ing to find the best deal. From the be­gin­ning, I said we will agree where it makes sense for us, and go for the best deal. We are not mak­ing a deal at all costs.”

He said that he will con­tinue keep­ing the pub­lic in­formed, “as I have done after the Mem­o­ran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing was signed and as I have through re­leas­ing state­ments. We have noth­ing to hide when it comes to Air Malta.”

Re­cently, Il Gior­nale re­ported that the deal be­tween Ital­ian air­line Al­i­talia and Air Malta is off. The ar­ti­cle said that al­though the news has not yet been made of­fi­cial, Al­i­talia will not be ac­quir­ing 49% of the Mal­tese na­tional air­line’s shares.

In a state­ment later, the govern­ment said it took note of “the var­i­ous re­ports pub­lished in the me­dia to­day and of the fact that none of th­ese quoted of­fi­cial sources.” Govern­ment said that to the con­trary, talks are still on­go­ing. Air Malta chair­per­son Maria Mi­callef also con­firmed this to The Malta In­de­pen­dent when in­ter­viewed in Lon­don last week.

The PN have also been pres­sur­ing govern­ment after many re­ports about the Al­i­talia deal, as well as the prob­lems with unions faced over sum­mer. The PN be­lieves that the best choice for a sus­tain­able fu­ture for Air Malta is for the govern­ment to at­tract lo­cal investment. This would also mean, the PN said, that the govern­ment would re­tain con­trol over strate­gic de­ci­sions.

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