Emirates airline Etihad Airways has come to the rescue of the struggling airline Alitalia. The state-owned airline from the United Arab Emirates has signed a deal acquiring a huge stake in the Italian carrier.
Etihad Airways was set to acquire 49 percent of Alitalia on Wednesday, the two companies said in a joint statement.
The two airlines did not disclose the value of the deal but said an agreement on the transaction came only after several months of tough negotiations.
"The airlines will now move to finalize the transactional documents, that will include the agreed upon conditions, as soon as possible," the airlines said in a statement.
Alitalia has struggled in recent years to cope with rising costs, fierce global competition and massive debt. The Italian carrier's financial woes are said to have been a big sticking point in the negotiations, which began at the end of last year. Alitalia has not turned a profit since 2002.
In addition, planned cuts to the airline's 12,800-strong workforce were also holding up an agreement. Alitalia Chief Executive Gabriele Del Torchio said earlier in June that about 2,200 jobs would be slashed as part of the merger.
Etihad Airways is a state-controlled airline in the United Arab Emirates and has expanded rapidly in recent years as air travel in Gulf states booms.
uhe/cjc (Reuters, dpa, AFP)