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Italy aims to pick preferred bidder for ITA Airways this month

by jcp
Editorial & Advertiser disclosure

By Francesco Zecchini and Giuseppe Fonte

MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s outgoing government is pressing ahead with plans to sell a majority stake in ITA Airways and hopes to choose its preferred bidder by the end of the month, three sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The government had aimed to complete the part-privatisation of the successor to Alitalia over the summer, but asked the two rival consortia to review their initial offers as it deemed they did not meet its goals. They have until midnight (2200 GMT) on Monday to do so.

Shipping group MSC and Germany’s Lufthansa are facing a rival bid led by U.S. private equity fund Certares and which is backed by Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines Inc.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government wants to sign a preliminary agreement with the preferred bidder by Sept. 10, the sources said.

However, any deal would probably close in the final quarter of the year by which time Italy should have a new government after a national election on Sept. 25, potentially complicating the issue further.

MSC and Lufthansa are offering between 850 million euros ($847 million) and 900 million euros for an 80% stake, one of the sources told Reuters. MSC would buy a 60% stake while the German airline would have a 20% stake.

The Italian Treasury wants to retain an important influence on ITA’s strategy and jobs, the same source added.

MSC was not immediately available for comment, while Lufthansa declined to comment on the matter.

In the case of Certares, the fund is offering around 600 million euros for about 60% of ITA.

According to a fourth source, its proposal would leave the Italian Treasury with “at least” a 40% stake and the right to appoint the company’s chairman and exercise a veto on certain “strategic choices.”

 

(Additional reporting by Francesca Landini in Milan and Ilona Wissenbach in Frankfurt; Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Mike Harrison)

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