Italy has selected a Certares-led consortium, backed by Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines, for talks on buying a majority stake in the country’s national carrier ITA Airways, beating a rival bid by Germany’s Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) and shipping group MSC.
The Certares-led consortium offer was “deemed more in line with the objectives set by the Prime Minister’s Decree”, according to the country’s Ministry of Economy and Finance.
A US-based private equity firm dedicated to the travel, tourism, and hospitality business, Certares recently started taking an interest into the European travel sector. In September 2021, it invested €300 million ($355 million) into Avia Solutions Group, a global provider of aviation services headquartered in Limassol, Cyprus, which employs over 7,000 people worldwide.
The details of the offer have not yet been disclosed. However, according to a source quoted by Reuters, Certares is offering €600 million to buy a 60% stake in ITA, leaving the government with at least a 40% stake in the carrier and the right to exercise certain strategic choices.
Italy’s new national airline ITA Airways, the successor of loss-making Alitalia, has been looking for a new owner to help it out of its financial difficulties since its launch back in the autumn of 2021.
“It would be wrong to remain independent because we would always be too small compared to the three big airline groups operating in Europe,” ITA’s CEO Alfredo Altavilla said in November 2021.
The rival of the Certares-led consortium, Germany’s Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) and MSC group, had reportedly offered between €850 and €900 million for a larger 80% stake in the airline.
In an emailed statement to AeroTime, Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) said that the joint offer with MSC was “the better solution for ITA”.
“Apparently, a path is now being chosen that allows for more state influence and does not provide for a complete privatization of ITA,” a spokesperson for Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) said.
Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) also highlighted that even without cooperation with ITA, “the Lufthansa Group remains excellently positioned in Italy”.
It is worth noting that Italy is Lufthansa’s (LHAB) (LHA) largest market in Europe, outside of its home markets.
“With our own Italian airline Air Dolomiti and with all our airline brands we already have a strong position in Italy with around 4 million passengers and over 130 daily departures from 21 destinations,” Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) said.
ITA launched on October 15, 2021, the day after Alitalia carried out its final flight. With plans to increase its fleet to 105 by 2025, the airline currently operates 64 aircraft, including the A319, A320, A330, and A350, according to Planespotters.net.