Lufthansa’ Al­i­talia bid the ‘most promis­ing’: Min­is­ter

Kuwait Times - - Business -

MI­LAN: Lufthansa emerged as the num­ber one can­di­date to take over Al­i­talia yes­ter­day af­ter an Ital­ian gov­ern­ment min­is­ter called the Ger­man air­line’s bid the “most promis­ing”. The Ital­ian gov­ern­ment has been look­ing for new in­vestors in its strug­gling flag­ship air­line since it en­tered in­sol­vency pro­ceed­ings last year, hit by com­pe­ti­tion from low-cost op­er­a­tors.

The sit­u­a­tion is fur­ther com­pli­cated by March’s in­con­clu­sive gen­eral elec­tion, from which no new gov­ern­ment has yet been found. “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.”

It was put under spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tion in May af­ter staff re­jected plans to cut 1,700 jobs and salaries, and last week was the sub­ject of three ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est, with Britain’s bud­get air­line EasyJet one of the other com­pa­nies keen. EasyJet pre­sented a “re­vised ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est for a re­struc­tured Al­i­talia, as part of a con­sor­tium,” with­out pro­vid­ing fur­ther de­tails.

Ital­ian me­dia claimed that pri­vate eq­uity firm Cer­berus and the Amer­i­can air­line Delta were EasyJet’s part­ners and that the third ex­pres­sion of in­ter­est was sub­mit­ted by Hun­gar­ian car­rier Wizz Air, who de­clined to com­ment when asked about the mat­ter by AFP.

How­ever Cal­enda said that any sale was con­tin­gent on a new gov­ern­ment some­how emerg­ing from the po­lit­i­cal dead­lock. Two rounds of con­sul­ta­tions held by the Ital­ian Pres­i­dent Ser­gio Mattarella came to noth­ing, as anti-es­tab­lish­ment Five Star Move­ment (M5S) and a right-wing coali­tion led by the far-right League bicker over who should lead a new gov­ern­ment and on what terms.

“Ital­ian­ness”

The dead­line for sale of Al­i­talia was orig­i­nally the end of this month, but the gov­ern­ment will is­sue a de­cree in the com­ing weeks push­ing back that dead­line by around six months while Mattarella searches for a so­lu­tion to the stale­mate. “We need a new gov­ern­ment, oth­er­wise the in­vestors will not buy,” Cal­enda said to La Repub­blica. How­ever, both the League and the M5S have want to re­tain the “Ital­ian­ness” of Al­i­talia, which em­ploy­ees around 11,000 peo­ple.

Last week a Lufthansa spokesman told AFP that they had “sub­mit­ted a doc­u­ment de­scrib­ing ideas for a re­struc­tured ‘NewAl­i­talia’”, while stat­ing that Al­i­talia as it is to­day “is not in­ter­est­ing”.

The spokesman said that if the doc­u­ment was well re­ceived enough “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. —AFP

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