Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, who is campaigning to become prime minister again in April's election, says his sons could join an alternative bid for Alitalia if Air France-KLM pulls out.
He called the offer from the world's biggest airline by revenues "unacceptable" and said late on Wednesday – as he left a birthday party – that Air France-KLM would likely pull out and leave the field free to Alitalia's smaller local rival, Air One.
"This operation would be backed by a string of banks, among them maybe Banca Intesa whose board should decide tomorrow, and other business leaders which could also include my sons," said the media tycoon and conservative opposition leader.
Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy's biggest retail bank, is scheduled to have a board meeting on Thursday to discuss its results but it was not clear whether it had any plans to discuss Alitalia.
Shares in the nearly-bankrupt Italian airline were suspended in Milan in early trading after investors bid about 60 per cent more than Wednesday's closing price, or as much as 0.5 euros per share.
The Air France-KLM offer values the shares at 0.1 euros each.
The offer announced on Sunday has met stiff opposition from trade unions worried about thousands of job losses, and also faces legal action by the operators of Milan's Malpensa airport.
Air One has challenged in court the exclusive sale talks for Alitalia backed by Italy's outgoing centre-left government, but so far without success.
Privately-owned Air One's rival bid, reported to be worth 1 cent per share, was backed by politicians who wanted Alitalia to remain in Italian hands. (Reuters)
Italian politician's sons could join Alitalia bid