Air France Not in Iberia Hunt

Air France-KLM chief executive Jean-Cyril Spinetta said his group is not in talks with Spanish peer Iberia.

“We are not holding any talks with Iberia at the moment,” Spinetta said at a news conference on Air France-KLM's full-year results.

British Airways said on Tuesday it had joined with TPG Capital, Vista Capital, Inversiones Ibersuizas and Quercus Equity to consider a possible consortium offer for Iberia.

The Spanish press, meanwhile, reported last week that Air France is also considering a bid for the Spanish carrier.

Regarding Alitalia, which is being privatised by the Italian government, Jean-Cyril Spinetta reiterated that Air France-KLM has will not be involved in the process, although adding that “we do not rule out revisiting” the matter.      

Last month, Italy's ministry of economy and finance confirmed it had received offers for 39.9 pct of Alitalia from three candidates: a consortium of Unicredito Italiano SpA and Aeroflot, Holding SpA, which owns Italy's Air One airline, and a consortium comprising Matlin Patterson, Texas Pacific and Mediobanca SpA.

Press reports had speculated that the Unicredito/Aeroflot consortium wants to add Air France-KLM, although the French group denied any contact on this possibility.

However, speaking at today's presentation, Spinetta clearly signalled a possible deal in the future, saying “the consolidation trend in Europe is not over yet and we firmly intend to take part.” 

The CEO also reiterated his support for the open skies agreement, which he hopes will allow Air France to implement its four-way joint venture project on US-European routes, with KLM, Delta and Northwest.

The accord, which aims to ease restrictions on travel between Europe and the US, was finally signed on April 30 this year after months of discussions, and should come into effect in March 2008.