The Lufthansa Group has made an offer to buy a 40 percent stake in Italy’s state-owned ITA Airways, it said Wednesday. The bid comes after a multi-year process, or “beauty contest” as it has been called, to find a strategic partner for ITA, and a dramatic change of fortune for Lufthansa after being counted out last August.
Financial terms of the offer were not made public but Lufthansa said Wednesday that its initial offer for a minority stake includes taking full control of ITA in the future. Italian daily Corriere della Sera has previously estimated the value of the offer to be between $250-260 million (€230-240 million). The German airline group and Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance must next agree to a memorandum of understanding, which would allow exclusive negotiations over the final terms of the deal to begin.
“For Lufthansa Group, Italy is the most important market outside of its home markets and the U.S.,” the airline said in a statement. “Italy’s importance for both business and private travel lies in its strong export-oriented economy and status as one of Europe’s top vacation spots.”
Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr has previously called the group the “natural home” for ITA.
The bid is a change of fortune for Lufthansa. In August, the previous Italian government selected a bid by private equity firm Certares and including commercial agreements with Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines for ITA. However, the new government of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni failed to reach a deal with the Certares-led group before the exclusivity period expired on October 31. Air France-KLM has since shifted its takeover interest to TAP Air Portugal.
ITA replaced Alitalia as Italy’s national carrier in October 2021.