Air France Decision On Alitalia Rescue Evenly Balanced: Source

Flamboyant France heads to playoffs on a high note

Four years ago, a late goal by William Gallas sent France to the World Cup and broke Irish hearts after television replays showed that Thierry Henry had clearly handled the ball before crossing for Gallas’ goal. France will not be seeded in next week’s draw and could face difficult opposition like Portugal or Ukraine. But on this form, no team will want to face France, especially with the way Franck Ribery is playing and now that strikers Karim Benzema and Olivier Giroud are both scoring. “We used the ball well, we used the width well with our fullbacks and we controlled possession,” Deschamps said. “In terms of our attacking play, our presence in front of goal, we had an enormous amount of possession. We could have scored more as we created a lot of chances.” After five matches without scoring, major doubts were raised about Deschamps’ team, but the turnaround has been spectacular since the dire first half against Belarus last month. France woke up in that game and went on to win 4-2, then thrashed Australia 6-0 on Friday night. “We are much more in control than we were before,” Deschamps said. “The players are in really good shape at the moment, as well. I hope nothing happens to any of them and that they’ll all be here next month.” In the past two games, Giroud and Benzema have scored twice – with Giroud also contributing to France’s second goal on Tuesday night when his header led to an own goal – while Ribery has been simply unstoppable. “All of the forwards showed good movement,” Deschamps said.

That gives Air France considerable leverage. The Franco-Dutch carrier was barred from a full takeover of Alitalia in late 2008 by then prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Alitalia has lost 700,000 euros a day since then and Italy’s current government and Alitalia shareholders hope to persuade Air France to join the capital increase. So far the parties have failed to agree financial commitments and business strategy. Alitalia wants to reposition itself in the higher-margin long-haul market after losing out on regional and domestic routes to competition from low-cost carriers and high-speed trains. That plan appears to clash with Air France’s demands for much tougher restructuring and debt-cutting measures. Analysts have said the logical way to save the Italian carrier would be for Air France-KLM to take over the operating core of the airline and get rid of the entire Alitalia back-office structure, However, that would mean severe cost cuts and job losses, which Rome and unions are likely to oppose. If Air France-KLM does not participate in the share issue, it could be overtaken by the Italian post office as the top investor and its own stake could drop to below 15 percent. This would effectively cost the company its veto power on any new shareholders coming in. If Alitalia were to fail, Air France-KLM would lose access to Europe’s fourth-largest travel market. But with Air France in the middle of a tough restructuring itself, that decision will be a close.