A bid from German carrier Lufthansa for ITA Airways could come early this week, three sources familiar with the matter have said, in a crucial step to speeding up the full privatisation of Italy's state-owned company.
The privatisation of ITA, which officially replaced loss-making Alitalia in 2021, has proved a headache for the Italian government which in December passed a decree to initially sell a minority stake in order to facilitate a full divestment.
On 18 Januray potential bidders will not be allowed to access ITA's financial data anymore, two of the sources said, adding Lufthansa was the only credible potential bidder.
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A government official said a Lufthansa bid could land even before 18 January, signalling the new right-wing administration of Giorgia Meloni was confident of finalising the deal.
Lufthansa declined to comment.
The government decree allowed bidders to buy stakes through one or more capital increases and stipulated that another airline must end up with a majority stake in ITA after the privatisation process is concluded.
Industry sources estimate the worth of ITA, which last year posted an operating loss of €170 million, at around €500 million.
One of the sources, who declined to be named, said Lufthansa could initially acquire a 40% stake through a capital increase worth between €300 million and €350 million.
The German carrier had initially partnered with shipping group MSC to bid for ITA, but MSC said in November it was no longer interested in the transaction.
The previous Italian government of Mario Draghi pledged more than €1 billion for ITA and under a deal with the European Union Rome could provide it with an additional 250 million this year.