ROME: Air France–KLM, the European airline group, has taken a 25% stake in Alitalia, and is now the Italian air carrier's "strategic partner" after inking a €323 million ($431m; £294m) deal.

The tie-up requires approval both from Alitalia's shareholders and competition watchdogs, but Air France–KLM says it could result in €720 million in efficiency savings over three years.

Alitalia originally held talks with the Franco-Dutch company early in 2009, but was ultimately placed in bankruptcy administration after the parties failed to reach an agreement.

Investor group Compagnia Aerea Italiana, which took control of Alitalia in late 2008, is cutting back the company's number of routes, aircraft and employees, and has been seeking an international partner since the takeover.

Under the terms of the deal, no Italian shareholders will be able to transfer stock to Air France–KLM or the Alitalia shareholder group until 2013.

Says Jean-Cyril Spinetta, chairman of Air France–KLM: "In view of the many challenges facing our sector, co-operation is more than ever a necessity and we have now made a further step towards this."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff