Alitalia board weakened after Spinetta resignation - Italy minister

MILAN (AFX) - The resignation of Jean-Cyril Spinetta, CEO of Air

France-KLM, as board member of Alitalia SpA, weakens the board of the

Italian airline and is a "personal setback", said infrastructure

minister Antonio Di Pietro.

He added, "The fact that a director resigns ahead of Alitalia's privatisation is a personal setback and a move that weakens the board when it should be working flat out," to prepare the airline for its privatisation.

Alitalia announced Spinetta's resignation this morning. The move comes ahead of a board meeting scheduled on Friday and could cripple Alitalia, whose board needs at least three directors to function under the company's by-laws.

With Spinetta's resignation the number of directors falls to two. Air France-KLM said simply that Spinetta "can no longer be on the board" in view of the Italian government's privatisation process for Alitalia and the fact that Air France is a business partner of the airline.

Air France is a possible takeover candidate for Alitalia. Italian prime minister Romano Prodi previously said he would accept a takeover by the French if they make "a clear and firm offer."

Bids for Alitalia have to be presented by Jan 29.