Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad Int'l) is considering acquiring a stake in Italian carrier Meridiana (IG, Olbia) with a due diligence currently being undertaken the Chief Executive Officer of the Qatari carrier, Akbar al Baker, has revealed.

"We have studied Meridiana carefully, we are in the due diligence phase," he was quoted by Italy's ANSA news service during a press conference last week. "If we believe that we have synergies, we will be more than happy to help Meridiana, also to create jobs in Italy."

Reports in the Italian media suggest the Qataris are looking to acquire up to a 49% stake in Meridiana's parent firm, Alisarda. The Italian Ministry of Transport, however, has yet to respond to Doha's conditions to finalize the deal which, according to Italy's Corriere della Sera, include the granting of additional landing slots at Pisa, Venice Marco Polo, and Turin to Qatar Airways.

Control of Alisarda would also give Qatar Airways access to Air Italy (2005) (I9, Milan Malpensa) and Meridiana fly (IG, Olbia) as well as other lucrative assets such as its MRO division Meridiana Maintenance S.p.A and the management of Olbia Costa Smeralda airport (through its Geasar S.p.A., Cortesa S.r.l. and Eccelsa Aviation S.r.l. subsidiaries).

Meridiana is in the midst of a tough restructuring drive aimed at streamlining its fleet and staff compliments. Last month, management reached an agreement with the airline's trade unions guaranteeing 1,634 employees an additional twelve months of government benefits while staving off impending retrenchments.