US FIRM INTERESTED IN LUFTHANSA FACILITY - Lufthansa Technik is in early discussions with US aviation specialist Cloud Investment Partners about a possible takeover of its Dublin aircraft maintenance facility, which is threatened with closure, according to The Irish Times. 

Irishman Declan Treacy, a former GPA executive, is among the founding partners of Cloud Investment.

The exploratory talks come at a crucial time for the 400 employees at the Lufthansa Technik Airmotive plant in Rathcoole, where Lufthansa Technik is thought to be laying the ground work for a closure around the middle of next year if no other solution can be reached.

“We would be interested,” said Mr Treacy from Florida yesterday. He said the company had not yet discussed the matter with IDA Ireland but was close to signing a non-disclosure agreement with Lufthansa Technik. 

This would give Cloud Investment access to LTAI’s financial data, allowing it to make a decision on whether to proceed with an offer or not. 

Mr Treacy said Cloud Investment’s partners have experience of buying and turning around a comparable facility in the Czech Republic. Any deal with LTAI would probably involve retaining the plant’s repair, maintenance and testing facilities, he added, emphasising that Cloud Investment’s interest was “so preliminary”.

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ALITALIA BEHIND ON €300M CASH-CALL - Loss-making Alitalia has yet to raise all of the €300m it was seeking in an emergency cash call, piling more pressure on the Italian airline to find a strategic investor to keep it flying, reports The Irish Independent.

Alitalia said it had received €173m by a deadline for existing shareholders to subscribe to its cash call via pledges and bank guarantees and expected to raise the rest from the state-owned postal service and other investors.

Top shareholder Air France-KLM, with a 25% stake, refused to take up its share of the cash call, saying Alitalia's new business plan pledging severe cost cuts was not enough to save the stricken Italian carrier without its creditors writing off some of its huge debts.

The Franco-Dutch group has so far been seen as the most suitable carrier to come to Alitalia's rescue.

Earlier this week, Alitalia rebuffed an offer from Ryanair to feed passengers into its long-haul routes and help boost the Italian carrier's profitability.

The emergency cash, part of a bigger rescue package engineered by the government to keep Alitalia's aircraft in the air, is seen as a stopgap measure giving the airline a few more months to find a partner to help revamp the group.

But with €700,000 of daily losses and net debt of €800m Alitalia could soon have to ground its planes.

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INSOLVENCIES FALL IN 2013 - The Irish Examiner reports on figures from business and credit risk analysts Vision-net, which shows that the number of firms becoming insolvent has dropped by 18% during 2013. 

The findings show the number of company and business start-ups have grown by 9.4% in the year to date, when compared with the same time last year.

In November, 130 companies - representing five each day - were declared insolvent, 58% of which have a Dublin-registered address.

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EU SCRAMBLES TO SAVE UKRAINE DEAL - The Financial Times reports that the EU is scrambling to rescue a deal to integrate Ukraine more closely with the west, as demonstrators again massed in Kiev calling on their president, Viktor Yanukovich, to sign the agreement.

European Union leaders flew into a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, for their first meeting with Mr Yanukovich since his government last week dramatically froze preparations for the deal and instead reopened talks on closer ties with Russia.

Angela Merkel, German chancellor, told reporters as she arrived in Vilnius she saw “no hope” of signing a deal with Kiev at the summit as planned, but the “door was still open” to Ukraine.

At a dinner in Vilnius, the 28 EU heads of government were set to discuss whether to sign a proposed joint declaration on Friday with Mr Yanukovich saying talks would resume between the two sides in hopes of signing the deal no later than March.