Lufthansa Eyes Stake in Italy’s ITA to Extend Regional Reach

Deutsche Lufthansa AG said it aims to buy a minority stake in ITA Airways, seeking to advance an industry consolidation that would give the German airline a stronger foothold in a major European aviation market, Bloomberg News. reported. The German carrier didn’t disclose financial details, or lay out the size of the stake it wishes to buy in the successor of Alitalia SpA. Lufthansa wants to buy as much as 40% of ITA in an initial step and subject to negotiations. The airline said in a statement that it submitted a bid to Italy’s Economy and Finance Ministry, with a view to buying the remaining shares “at a later date.” Further talks will primarily focus on the form of a possible equity investment, the commercial and operational integration of ITA into Lufthansa, the airline said. A firm deal would allow Lufthansa to expand in one of Europe’s key markets, while charting a course for Rome to rid itself of an asset that has soaked up billions of euros in state support. While ITA and the erstwhile Alitalia have been notoriously unprofitable, Lufthansa would gain access to lucrative trans-Atlantic travel while preventing a rival from building up a base in northern Italy that might soak up passengers from Lufthansa’s own Munich hub. ITA would add to a group of national carriers already under the Lufthansa umbrella, including Swiss and Austrian Airlines. Lufthansa Chief Executive Officer Carsten Spohr, a trained pilot who has run the company for close to a decade, has built the company into Europe’s biggest airline group, competing with the other two major conglomerates — British Airways parent IAG SA and Air France-KLM — as well as the trio of budget specialists: Ryanair Holdings Plc, EasyJet Plc and Wizz Air Holdings Plc. Read more.