By Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo
Newborn Italian National Airline Heads Toward Privatization
The Italian government recently approved the decree for a new path to be taken by the newly formed Italian national airline, ITA Airways. Currently, the airline is 100% owned by the Italian state, specifically the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance. However, the future of ITA Airways will be privatization.
Recently, Italian Minister of Economy Daniele Franco commented on the approval of the privatization decree as necessary to find a partner for ITA. The Italian state’s initial objective is to maintain a minority stake — 15% — and then eventually sell its shares. The “dream” of an Alitalia-style return of the national airline is therefore definitely no longer feasible.
The complete privatization of the Italian airline has not gone unnoticed. Many companies have been interested in the acquisition despite the last not exactly profitable results. Consider that ITA Airways’ revenues amounted to 86 million euros ($98 million), 50% less than those forecasted in the business plan.
These initial difficulties, however, have not discouraged possible contenders who are very interested in investing in the airline for a long-term project. These include the Swiss group MSC Cruises, which is interested in a majority stake, the German Lufthansa and U.S.-based Delta Airlines. Moreover, it has been confirmed that two international funds will also ask to enter the ITA Airways data room to see and analyze all the accounts of the company and its industrial plans. The data room won’t be accessed by Lufthansa due to the lack of formalization of interest in the purchase. However, the German giant has confirmed its interest in a subsequent entry into the shareholding structure.
At the moment, therefore, only the MSC cruise group will have access to the sensitive data of ITA Airways. It should be remembered that the Swiss group is the only one to have spoken of a firm offer, which it pegged at around 1.4 billion euros. This number, if it is indeed the real sale figure, would be excellent news for the Italian government since the money it has spent so far is around 700 million euros, 400 million of which are still in the airline’s coffers. The conditions set by the Mediterranean Shipping Company include three pieces: the strategic partnership with Lufthansa, the acquisition of the majority shares and minority ownership by the Italian government.
The opening of the data room will, however, have to be evaluated carefully because full of valuable information that could be useful to other airlines. For this reason, the Ministry of Economy will have to appoint consultants to evaluate the real interest of other companies and allow access to the data only to those who are really interested.