Italy's Treasury has invited suitors interested in buying the majority of ITA Airways to express their formal interest in the carrier by 18 April, three sources close to the matter have said.
ITA took over from Alitalia in October, permanently grounding the 75-year-old, one-time symbol of Italian style and glamour after years of financial losses and failed rescue attempts.
Shipping group MSC and Germany's Lufthansa LHAG.DE have expressed interest in buying a majority stake in ITA and requested an exclusivity period of 90 days to iron out details of an acquisition. But Rome opted for a market-based procedure aimed at keeping the door open to other potential suitors.
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Last month the Treasury picked Equita and Gianni & Origoni as financial and legal advisers for the privatisation of ITA Airways, which is fully owned by the government.
"Advisers have invited several players in the airline sector to formalise their interest in ITA," one of the sources said.
The carrier has lined up JPMorgan and Mediobanca to help on the search for private investors, two different sources added.
The government wants to clinch a deal on the sale by mid-June, two sources close to the matter told Reuters last week.
In past decades, Alitalia tried and failed to clinch alliances with Air France AIRF.PA and, more recently, Gulf airline Etihad.
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines Inc DAL.N last month said that it wanted to deepen its commercial ties with ITA Airways but was not interested in taking an equity stake in the carrier.