MILAN: Alitalia moved a step closer to being sold to Lufthansa on Monday after an Italian government minister called the German airline’s bid the “most promising”.
Alitalia has been the subject of three offers or expressions of interest, with Britain’s budget airline EasyJet one of the other companies keen on Italy’s struggling flagship airline.
“Alitalia is still fragile and needs a partner. There’s a chance to work on these offers and arrive at a structural solution that doesn’t cost taxpayers anything more,” Economic Development Minister Carlo Calenda told the La Repubblica daily.
“Objectively speaking, however, Lufthansa’s offer is the most promising.”
However Calenda said that any sale was contingent on a new government somehow emerging from the political deadlock that has remained since last month’s inconclusive general election.
Two rounds of consultations held by the Italian President Sergio Mattarella came to nothing, as anti-establishment Five Star Movement and a right-wing coalition led by the far-right League bicker over who should lead a new government and on what terms.
“We need a new government, otherwise the investors will not buy,” Calenda said.
Last week a Lufthansa spokesman told AFP that they had “submitted a document describing ideas for a restructured ‘NewItalia’”, while stating that Alitalia as it is today “is not interesting”.
The spokesman said that the document was received well enough that “we can imagine further discussions”.
The Lufthansa group — which includes Lufthansa, Eurowings, Swiss, Brussels Airlines and Austrian Airlines — reported record profits for 2017 last month, celebrating a year in which it ended a dispute with pilots and acquired parts of defunct rival Air Berlin.
Net profits rose 33.1 per cent to hit 2.36 billion euros (Dh10.72 billion; $2.92 billion), higher than the 2.28 billion predicted by analysts and results hailed by chief executive Carsten Spohr “the “best result in the history of our company”.
However Lufthansa asks that the commissioners responsible for managing Alitalia carry out a profound restructuring before any possible acquisition.
Last week Calenda welcomed an improved proposal from Lufthansa, “both in terms of maintaining intercontinental links and staff”.
Italian media claims that Lufthansa has lowered the number of aviation jobs it wants removed to 4,000 of the current 8,400. Previously they had planned on 6,000 redundancies.