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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Italian-Led Group Says it Wants to Purchase Alitalia

ROME -- A largely Italian consortium of financiers and entrepreneurs has expressed interest in buying Alitalia, which is struggling to find a buyer, the group's lawyer said Friday.

The previously unknown group joins a handful of companies that say they could consider buying the airline, though the Italian government's attempt to sell it through an auction failed last month when all bidders pulled out.

Rome, which has a 49.9 percent stake in the airline, says it still wants to shed the stake but has handed responsibility for finding a buyer to Alitalia's management -- and it is unclear who, if anyone, is in the lead to buy it this time around.

The new group has more than five Italian and foreign members that represent both financial and corporate interests, said its lawyer, Antonio Baldassarre, a former chairman of Italy's constitutional court.

He declined to identify the members but said none of them had participated in the auction that collapsed.

The group has presented its interest to the Italian central bank, but has yet to do so directly with the airline, he said.

It does not plan to cut jobs and would keep Alitalia's management Italian and widen its flight network, he said. That contrasts with the view of most industry analysts and experts, who say Alitalia needs a sharp restructuring with layoffs if it is to become profitable again.

Italy last month called off its seven-month auction of the national airline after bidders pulled out, citing restrictive conditions imposed on the sale. All the final contenders in the failed auction -- Aeroflot, U.S. private equity firms MatlinPatterson and TPG and smaller Italian carrier Air One -- say they would be interested again if Italy relaxed sale terms.