Representatives from both airlines have met over the past few days, while financial analysts from Etihad have been pouring over Alitalia’s accounts, the newspaper said.
Fabrizio Pagani, a senior economic advisor for Prime Minister Enrico Letta, is also said to have visited Abu Dhabi in November to “test the water”.
Sheikh Hamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the chairman of Etihad, is thought to be pushing for the move in a bid to strengthen the airline’s presence in Europe as part of its ambitious growth strategy.
Any offer from Etihad, the Gulf’s fastest growing airline, would likely come with “very strict” conditions, particularly given Alitalia's huge debt, La Stampa said.
The conditions would likely be similar to those laid out by Air France-KLM, which holds a 25 percent stake in Alitalia. Air France said in November it would not participate in a capital increase after failing to agree on “necessary financial restructuring measures”.
But as Air France undergoes its own restructuring, Etihad, which posted a 200 percent increase in profit earlier this year, would probably make a more “solid partner”, La Stampa said.
However, Christoph Franz, the CEO of the German airline, Lufthansa, would not be happy with such a deal. He warned on Monday that Alitalia should "not be sold to the Sheikhs" as it would only become a "shuttle service towards the United Arab Emirates". READ MORE HERE 'Don’t sell Alitalia to the Sheikhs': Lufthansa CEO.