Etihad Buys Stake in Italy's Alitalia

Big news from Europe's airspace today: Etihad Airways has confirmed  that it will buy 49 percent of Italy's beleaguered Alitalia in what the Wall Street Journal reports is likely to be the UAE airline's biggest investment in a foreign carrier so far.

In a statement, Etihad said that the airlines would begin the process to finalize the transactional documents that include the agreed-upon conditions of the purchase "as soon as possible." The conclusion of the investment is subject to final regulatory approvals. 

The Journal is reporting that earlier this month, Etihad said it would invest in Alitalia under certain unnamed conditions. In a joint statement on Wednesday, the airlines said they would complete the transaction as soon as possible. So far, no reports have emerged on the size of Etihad's investment.

The investment will give Etihad access to the Italian market, and could deepen its foothold in Europe, where the airline already has a stake in Air Berlin and a revenue-sharing partnership with Air France-KLM, which holds a 7 percent stake in Alitalia.