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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
Berlusconi mulls Fiat aid
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
Any bailout would be conditional, Mr Berlusconi says
The Italian government might bail out the country's troubled industry group Fiat, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said.

Fiat is the most important privately held company in Italy

Silvio Berlusconi
Italian Prime Minister
"The government is available to examine the possibility of taking measures for Fiat," Mr Berlusconi said.

His words of hope came a day after the indebted loss-maker said it would lay off 2,800 workers at its car making unit Fiat Auto.

The company blames large losses at its car making unit for its troubles.

Friday meeting

Italy's Labour Minister Roberto Maroni and Fiat executives are set to hold meetings on Friday.

Lancia Phaedra
Fiat Auto's cars are not as popular as they used to be
"If necessary, we would intervene," Mr Maroni told the Italian news agency Ansa ahead of the meeting.

"Fiat is the most important privately held company in Italy, and therefore we sincerely hope that Fiat... will be able to recover quickly," Mr Berlusconi said.

But any bailout from the government would be conditional to ensure that "such actions don't violate free market competition," Mr Berlusconi said.

Angry workers

Fiat Auto's job cuts, most of which will go from plants around Turin, came the day after the firm revealed losses of 529m euros (161m; $235m) for the first three months of 2002.

Wednesday's statement followed a meeting with union leaders, who had reacted angrily to the lay-offs, pledging industrial action.

The job cuts are the latest in a series of measures Fiat has sought to trim losses which have widened from the 16m euros reported for the first three months of 2001.

The firm on Tuesday said it hoped to raise at least 1bn euros altogether from selling shares in Ferrari and in the tractor maker CNH Global.

See also:

15 May 02 | Business
Ailing Fiat cuts 2,800 jobs
14 May 02 | Business
Fiat to float Ferrari
13 May 02 | Business
Fiat's future in the spotlight
09 May 02 | Business
Fiat chairman has prostate disease
08 Mar 02 | Business
Fiat builds brands to beat debts
28 Feb 02 | Business
Fiat suffers loss
02 May 02 | Business
Fiat ponders Ferrari sale
05 Jan 01 | Business
Ferrari float hopes stall
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