Italy in exclusive talks with Delta and Air France-KLM over ITA Airways sale

Italy chooses talks with Certares-led group over MSC-Luthansa bid.

Italy's treasury has chosen to enter exclusive talks for the sale of a majority stake in ITA Airways with a consortium led by US private equity fund Certares, in partnership with Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines.

The plan, announced on Wednesday, would potentially see the Italian state retain a minority stake in the airline which launched last October as Italy's flag carrier, replacing the loss-making Alitalia.

The surprise move sees Italy opt to enter into negotiations with the Certares-led consortium over a rival bid from Swiss-Italian shipping group MSC and German airline Lufthansa.

The government said the proposal was "more in line with the objectives set", stressing that on conclusion of the talks, binding agreements would be signed only if the deal is "totally satisfactory for the public stakeholder".

The move could however face political hurdles, including from the leader of the far-right Fratelli d'Italia, Giorgia Meloni, who is tipped to become Italy's prime minister after general elections later this month.

"I don't understand why the Italian government has chosen to move forward without waiting for the next government", Meloni said on Wednesday, adding that she was prepared to do "all I can to prevent" the airline from being "handed over to foreign funds".

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