Italy's Transport Minister Alessandro Bianchi said Tuesday that he thinks the sale of struggling state-controlled airline Alitalia SpA should be concluded by the end of the year, Italian news agencies reported.
Bianchi told reporters on the sidelines of a news conference that Alitalia Chairman Maurizio Prato is due to report back to Prime Minister Romano Prodi "within weeks if not days," after sounding out various potential bidders.
"I believe that the sale of Alitalia, and therefore the arrival of the new owner, will be completed by the end of the year," Bianchi said, according to the Ansa and Apcom news agencies.
Prato, Alitalia's third chairman in just over six months, was appointed after an attempt to auction off the state's 49.9 percent stake collapsed over the summer. He has been tasked with finding a buyer directly for the airline, which has enough cash to keep its jets flying for 12 more months.