No dead­line to con­clude Air Malta talks with Al­i­talia – Zam­mit Lewis

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - The full pro­gramme will be up­loaded to­day on­de­pen­

The gov­ern­ment has not set any spe­cific dead­line to con­clude talks Air Malta started with Al­i­talia on the sale of 49% of the national car­rier’s shares, but this does not mean that the ne­go­ti­a­tions are open-ended.

“In the next weeks, maybe in the next months,” a line has to be drawn one way or the other, Tourism Min­is­ter Ed­ward Zam­mit Lewis said. In­ter­viewed by The Malta In­de­pen­dent on­line editor Stephen Calleja on IN­DEPTH, Dr Zam­mit Lewis said it is not the gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tion to pro­long the ne­go­ti­a­tions be­yond what is nec­es­sary.

The gov­ern­ment wants to find a strate­gic part­ner for the be­lea­guered air­line through an agree­ment that goes be­yond the in­jec­tion of cap­i­tal, but also looks at ways to im­prove the air­line’s con­nec­tiv­ity, the min­is­ter said.

Ear­lier this year, the gov­ern­ment had signed a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with Al­i­talia, but the talks with the Ital­ian car­rier are still on­go­ing. Re­cent re­ports in Italy said that Al­i­talia will pull out of the deal, but the gov­ern­ment and Air Malta con­tinue to say that the two sides are still ne­go­ti­at­ing the way for­ward.

The min­is­ter said that the in­ten­tion is to con­tinue to do the nec­es­sary changes in­ter­nally so that the air­line will be more com­pet­i­tive and these changes are nec­es­sary with or with­out a strate­gic part­ner.

Asked why the gov­ern­ment chose Al­i­talia when this com­pany al­ready has fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, Dr Zam­mit Lewis said that, “Air Malta does not only need money but needs a stronger busi­ness net­work.”

Min­is­ter Zam­mit Lewis did not want to re­veal if the gov­ern­ment is in ne­go­ti­a­tions with other air­lines be­cause of com­mer­cial sen­si­tiv­ity. He said that, “my ul­ti­mate wish is that the air­line will be the best air­line lo­cally and in Europe.”

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