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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Aeroflot Expected to Quit Alitalia

Aeroflot will announce within days that it is pulling out of the bidding for Italian airline Alitalia, an Aeroflot board member said Saturday, Interfax reported.

"The decision, in principle, has already been taken. The chief executive of Aeroflot will inform Italy's Finance Ministry about the Russian carrier's withdrawal from the acquisition of the state-held shares in Alitalia," the source said.

An Aeroflot spokeswoman, however, told Italy's ANSA news agency that the airline was going ahead with its offer for Alitalia and that its general director presented a report on the subject to the carrier's new board elected Saturday.

It also quoted Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, who was in Rome to participate in a separate business deal between the two countries, as saying he would be happy if Aeroflot entered the Italian market. But asked if Aeroflot would pull out of the auction, he said he was "only a minister, not someone who can predict the future."

Aeroflot has already denied one report by Interfax that it had pulled out of the bidding for the Italian government's 49.9 percent stake but its lukewarm enthusiasm has added to investors' fears that the sale could collapse.

Aeroflot, which is backed by Italian bank UniCredit, has expressed concern about the price tag and about Alitalia's finances, while Alexander Lebedev, a 30 percent shareholder in Aeroflot through his National Reserve Corporation, has said he is "negative" about the deal.