MSC Group, which encompasses container shipping and logistics operations in addition to cruises, said late Monday in a statement that the merger will exploit efficiencies in both passenger and cargo, adding that Lufthansa has already expressed interest.
MSC and Lufthansa have both sought a 90-day exclusivity period to review ITA Airways’ financial data, during which time the state-owned airline will be unable to deal with other companies.
When ITA was launched in October of last year, its chairman Alfredo Altavilla told reporters that the company would seek a partnership with a larger airline by the end of 2022 since it is too small to compete on its own.
Altavilla also stated that he recognised synergies with freight, one of the most profitable areas of the business.
ITA Airways has been seeking an industrial partner, and a successful end to the MSC-Lufthansa business might assure the airline’s future as it replaces the faltering Alitalia.
ITA, or Italy Air Transport, was formally formed last October when insolvent flag carrier Alitalia landed its final flight, bringing to an end a 74-year commercial history marked by a succession of ignominious corporate dealings that failed to restore the carrier to health.
Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi rejected an offer by KLM-Air France to acquire Alitalia, citing its strategic importance, only to give it over to a group of reluctant Italian investors, who finally sold a 49-percent stake to Abu Dhabi Etihad in 2014. By 2017, Alitalia has declared bankruptcy for the second time in a decade.
According to the Italian publication Il Post, several corporations have recently expressed interest in acquiring ITA Airways, which currently has a fleet of 52 aircraft and plans to expand to 105 by 2025.
MSC is the world’s largest container shipping line. It also has a cruise company, MSC Cruises, and operates in the aviation industry by leasing cargo planes to transport goods.
According to Il Post, acquiring a part in ITA Airways would be immensely significant for MSC since the shipping business would no longer have to rely on external airline operators.
Lufthansa, Europe’s largest airline in terms of aircraft, would be the company’s fourth investment in a smaller European carrier, following Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, and Eurowings.
Several media reports stated recently that Lufthansa was ready to make a deal on its own to purchase a 40% interest in ITA, which launched last October with a fleet that was less than half the size of its predecessor Alitalia.
According to Reuters, the news of the expression of interest evoked an initial positive reaction from Italy’s National Air Transport Federation (FNTA), which described MSC and Lufthansa as “two excellent partners who could guarantee future growth to ITA with an excellent international positioning.”
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