Italy Picks Certares-Led Bid for Exclusive ITA Airways Talks

Italy has picked a group led by U.S. private equity fund Certares, backed by Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines Inc., for exclusive talks on buying a majority stake in ITA Airways, the Treasury said on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The offer, details of which were not made public, would leave the Treasury with "at least" a 40% stake in ITA and the right to appoint the company's chairman and exercise a veto on certain "strategic choices", a source told Reuters. Certares, which has its European headquarters in Milan, is offering around 600 million euros ($599 million) for a stake of about 60% in the successor to Alitalia, sources have previously told Reuters. It was not immediately clear whether the two airlines planned to take equity stakes or act as commercial partners, helping to broaden ITA's reach. The consortium beat a rival bid presented by shipping group MSC and Germany's Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), which another source said was offering between 850 and 900 million euros for a larger 80% stake. Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government wants to sign a preliminary agreement with the preferred bidder by Sept. 10. 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. Read more.