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New owners soon for ITA, TAP?


With final bids in on Italy's planned sale of its new state-owned ITA airline and speculation rising again on the fate of Portugal's re-nationalized TAP, there may be some changes in Europe's airline line-ups soon.

Italy is considering two bids for most of its stake in ITA Airways, which replaced Alitalia last year; once one of the two bidder groups is chosen, it will begin exclusive negotiations over a deal, which Italy hopes to complete by the end of June, although a longer timeframe is likely.

The two bids are from a team-up of Lufthansa with the MSC shipping giant and from Certares, a U.S. capital management company that has been aligned with AirFrance/KLM and Delta airlines.

The Lufthansa bid would leave the German airline group with 20% of ITA, MSC with 60% and the remaining 20% with the Italian government. In the other bid, Delta has said it would not be a financial investor in the partnership but is looking to build on its existing commercial partnership. ITA, like Alitalia before it, was part of SkyTeam, whose leading members are Delta and AF/KLM. Lufthansa is a leading Star Alliance member.

Lufthansa has also indicated it would be a bidder when Portugal acts on its plan to divest all or most of its holdings in TAP, which came back into state ownership during the pandemic. However, Michael O'Leary, head of Ryanair, said in an interview last week he believes that Portugal intends to sell the airline to next-door-neighbor Iberia, and then use the proceeds to build up Lisbon's airport and tourism growth.

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