April 9, 2008

A match unmade in heaven

Will Air France take over Alitalia in the end? Deadlines come and go, negotiations and posturing continue, and the final answer is still to see.

Italy's premier financial newspaper, Il Sole 24 ore, carried an interesting article yesterday that looked back to Alitalia's failed marriage to KLM over ten years ago for some insights into today's venture. It seems that, with hindsight, the numbers didn't tell the whole story. Just as the joint venture was taking form after a two-year trial period, the two companies put together a pre-nuptial agreement regarding the soft-side of their future life together -- the cross-cultural differences that needed to be addressed.

Alitalia managers described KLM with terms such as: "decentralized, planning, methodical approach, rigid, arrogant and agressive, propensity towards partnership, English-speaking." In addition, they were accused of eating dinner too early.
KLM managers described Alitalia with terms such as: "strongly centralized, priority attention paid to relationships, non-English speaking. Management is chaotic and not structured. THey enjoy life too much and excessively use cell phones during meetings."

THe match went ahead in any case, with the Italians reducing their cell phone activity and the Dutch eating later in the evening. The forces of the market were too strong and they needed to stay together to fend off surrounding sharks. The marriage though only lasted a year, finally spliting over the question of Milan's international airport, Malpensa. KLM had invested heavily in its development as a hub only to see growth in air-traffic blocked by government intervention following protests by Milan's local government and competing airlines. KLM (as AT&T and other multinations since them) was scared off by "those untrustworthy Italians" and the high level of uncertainty around the future of any agreement.

Will the French be patient enough to see this one through? Can they stand the uncertainty and ambiguity? Travel the complex and unfathomable route to a long-term relationship while patiently waiting for their counterpart to kindly finish his cell-phone conversation?

Un chappeau if the do!
We will have to wait (and wait) to see...although some real deadlines are coming up.

a domani,

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