No more taxpayers’ money will be made available to Alitalia (AZ, Rome Fiumicino), and the troubled carrier could shut down by mid-2020 if it fails to find a buyer, the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero quoted Economic Minister Stefano Patuanelli as saying on December 21.

Patuanelli's warning came as he signed off on a further loan of EUR400 million (USD445 million), approved by Italy's Council of Ministers on December 2, to keep the carrier afloat for another six months.

“This is really the last state intervention for Alitalia,” Patuanelli said, adding that either a buyer would be found by mid-2020 or the company “would shut down”.

The minister rejected the idea that the European Commission may consider the loan to be illegal state aid.

“We will change the Alitalia brand and the company’s structure,” Patuanelli declared, without elaborating.

Alitalia continues to lose EUR2 million euros (USD2.23 million) per day and is currently under the control of a single bankruptcy commissioner, who was appointed in December following the exit of a consortium of potential rescuers. Analysts have estimated that the airline has already spent EUR9 billion (USD10 billion) in Italian taxpayers’ money over the years.

“We have six months to save Alitalia. The goal is to close a deal within half a year, with the expiry of the mandate of the commissioner. Otherwise, it shuts down. The EUR400 million loan has been disbursed. There will be no other funds,” the minister said.