ITA Airways: MSC and Lufthansa offer to buy Italian airline

Italian government would keep minority stake in ITA Airways as MSC and Lufthansa make joint offer.

ITA Airways, the successor to Alitalia as Italy's flag carrier, has revealed that the Swiss-Italian shipping group MSC and German airline Lufthansa have expressed an interest in buying a majority stake in the state-owned company.

The Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and Lufthansa have requested a 90-day exclusivity period to study ITA Airways' financial data, during which time the state-owned airline would not be able to negotiate with other companies.

When ITA launched last October, its chairman Alfredo Altavilla told reporters that the company would be seeking a deal with a larger airline by the end of 2022 as it is too small to compete on its own.

The economic terms of the proposal from MSC and Lufthansa have not been made public however government sources told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that the proposed deal has a total value of between €1.2 and €1.4 billion.

In the coming days the expression of interest is to be examined by the government and, pending its approval, the board of ITA Airways will meet to discuss the next move, Reuters news agency reports.

Recently there has been talk of several companies interested in buying ITA Airways, which currently has a fleet of 52 aircraft and is aiming to reach 105 by 2025, reports Italian newspaper Il Post.

MSC is the largest container shipping line in the world and also owns a cruise subsidiary, MSC Cruises, as well as operating in the aviation sector by leasing cargo planes for the transport of goods.

Aquiring a stake in ITA Airways would be hugely significant for MSC – according to Il Post - and would mean the shipping company would no longer have to rely on external aviation companies.

For Lufthansa, which is the largest airline in Europe in terms of the number of aircraft, the acquisition would be its latest stake in a smaller European carrier, after Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines and Eurowings, reports Il Post.

Several media outlets reported in recent days that Lufthansa was ready to offer a deal on its own to take a 40 per cent stake in ITA, which took to the skies last October with a fleet less than half the size of its predecessor Alitalia.

On Monday Reuters reported that news of the expression of interest prompted a positive initial reaction from Italy's National Air Transport Federation (FNTA), which described MSC and Lufthansa in a statement as "two extremely solid partners who could guarantee future growth to ITA with an excellent positioning at international level."