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Etihad chief says will not be rushed on Alitalia decision

An Alitalia plane approaches to land at Fiumicino international airport in Rome December 10, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi
An Alitalia plane approaches to land at Fiumicino international airport in Rome December 10, 2013. REUTERS/Max Rossi

By Victoria Bryan

BERLIN (Reuters) - Etihad will not be rushed into making a decision over an investment in struggling Italian airline Alitalia , the chief executive of the Abu Dhabi-based airline said on Monday.

"There are no plans to make any announcement at the end of this month," James Hogan told journalists at an event with Air Berlin in the German capital.

Alitalia is in talks with Etihad, which sources close to the matter have told Reuters is willing to take a large stake. An Italian newspaper reported last week that Etihad could present an offer as early as this week.

"What is important in any transaction is that you undertake your due diligence and ensure if you are going to invest, there is a clear plan to move to profitability. We will not be rushed into making a decision," Hogan said.

After buying a 29 percent stake in Air Berlin , Germany's second-largest airline, in 2011, Etihad has taken stakes in airlines across the world and Hogan said Etihad would continue this strategy.

"Global reach is beyond the capacity of any single airline," Hogan said.

Along with Air Berlin, Etihad also owns stakes in Air Serbia, Aer Lingus , Darwin Airlines, Virgin Australia, Jet Airways and Air Seychelles.

Hogan said, though, that Etihad was not looking at investing in Poland's LOT or Latvia's Air Baltic, as recently suggested by analysts. Nor was Etihad planning to take a stake in Rome's Fiumicino airport, he added.

He also Etihad was happy with Air Berlin's financial position. The German airline is undergoing a restructuring as it tries to shrink its way back to profit and CEO Wolfgang Prock-Schauer said on Monday he had no plans to extend the airline's cost-saving program, which runs through 2014.

At the event on Monday, Etihad and Air Berlin said they would launch a joint advertising campaign this week as they unveiled a plane painted in a joint livery, combining the two companies' colors.

Etihad also announced over the weekend a deal to use German golfer Martin Kaymer in its adverts as part of its strategy to woo travelers from Germany, Europe's largest outbound travel market.

"Etihad in their own right in Germany doesn't have weight, with Air Berlin we have weight," Hogan said on Monday.

(Additional reporting by Peter Maushagen; Editing by Maria Sheahan and David Holmes)

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