With Lufthansa and the Italian government ever nearer to a definitive agreement for Lufthansa to take a 40% stake and operating control of the state-owned ITA Airways, Lufthansa's chief already has his eyes on TAP Portugal.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr told reporters Friday that “The priority for Lufthansa is ITA but, of course, as number one [airline group] in Europe you cannot focus on one take-over candidate only.” Spohr's comments were made while announcing that the airline had returned to profitability and has expansion on its mind. He added that “I do not shy away from TAP. The two most interesting [mergers and acquisitions] candidates right now are ITA and TAP, but I could give other names too."
AirFrance/KLM, which will be able to consider mergers in May when it has made required progress in repaying pandemic emergency financing, has also indicated its interest in TAP. British Air and Iberia parent was also interested, but its recent purchase of Air Europa may achieve the same goal as a TAP deal would: Stronger connections to South America and Africa.
Pressure is growing on the Italian government to wrap up the ITA deal because of shifting airline alliances and competitors. ITA, like Alitalia before it, is a member of SkyTeam, led by Delta and AF/KLM, which have announced that they will be pulling out of their close relationship with ITA now that their earlier bid to buy ended. That would sharply reduce ITA's ability to book passengers through to places it does not itself fly. A quick deal with Lufthansa would move ITA into Lufthansa's Star Alliance network as a replacement, and with the busy summer season approaching, that could be crucial.