Swiss-based shipping group MSC and German carrier Lufthansa want to buy the majority of Alitalia successor ITA Airways and have asked for an exclusivity period of 90 days to study the deal, MSC and ITA said on Monday.
The state-owned airline, which began flying in October last year, is looking for an equity partner and has started informal talks with some potential suitors, in Europe and overseas, its chairman said this month.
MSC said the interest in ITA stemmed from “the possibility of activating positive synergies … both in the cargo and the passenger sector”.
If Italian government gives its green light, the board of ITA Airways will examine details of the expression of interest at a future meeting and decide to enter exclusive talks with the two partners, a source close to the matter said.
A board meeting to approve ITA business plan is scheduled for Jan. 31.
MSC said it and Lufthansa will decide their respective involvement in the deal after studying financial data of the Italian airline.
Last week, ITA Chairman Alfredo Altavilla said the carrier posted a negative operating result of 170 million euros last year. Revenue were less than expected at 86 million euros, while the carrier could count on more than 400 million euros in cash coming from Italian tax payers.
In a first reaction from workers, flight attendants and pilots union FNTA said the interest of MSC and Lufthansa was positive news for the future of the small carrier.
They are “two extremely solid partners who could guarantee future growth to ITA with an excellent positioning at international level,” FNTA said in a statement.
Two sources told Reuters on Sunday that Lufthansa was in talks to buy 40% in ITA Airways.
In past decades troubled airline Alitalia tried but failed to a clinch successful alliance with Air France and, more recently, with Arab Emirates’ Ethiad.
Italy is an important market for Lufthansa and it is reasonable for the German company to try to secure commercial options in the country, analysts said. However a tie-up could entail risks.
“Italy is perhaps the most difficult market in Europe to make money: there are many fast train connections on the mainland and air traffic to the islands, like short-haul flights in Europe, is dominated by low-cost airlines, particularly Ryanair and Wizz,” Ruxandra Haradau-Doser, analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux told Reuters.
(Additional reporting Ilona Wissenbach; Editing by Valentina Za, Barbara Lewis and David Gregorio)
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