Ita Airways, the Treasury chooses the Certares-Air France-Delta consortium

Ita Airways, the Treasury chooses the Certares-Air France-Delta consortium

The Ita Airways dossier reaches a turning point. The Ministry of Economy and Finance immediately started, on 31 August, “an exclusive negotiation with the consortium formed by Certares, Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM”. This was confirmed in a note by the dicastery “following the procedure governed by the dpcm of 11 February 2022 and aimed at the transfer of control of ITA SpA (as the company headed by Ita Airways is called, ed) “. The decision comes not without some surprises since until a few days ago the proposal by MSC and Lufthansa was given the advantage.

The motivations

The offer led by the US fund according to the Treasury – which today is the sole shareholder of the Italian company – “was deemed more in line with the objectives set by the Prime Minister’s Office”, the statement continues. “At the conclusion of the exclusive negotiation, binding agreements will be signed only in the presence of content that is fully satisfactory for the public shareholder”, underlines the ministry.

The turning point

The turning point – from what has been learned – is recorded between Monday 29th and Tuesday 30th August. Convincing the offer of Certares-Delta-Air France would also have been the fact that leaving the public shareholder 45% of Ita for Rome, there would be greater control over the future of the company that took off last October 15 instead of Alitalia. On the other hand, the rigidity of MSC-Lufthansa on the distribution of shares would not have been appreciated (the two giants wanted to take over 80%, leaving 20% ​​to the Mef).

The two offers

Ita Airways is valued by both consortiums around 950 million euros. According to the filter, Certares would pay 600 million euros for 55% and granting to the Italian state two out of five board members with wide veto powers on industrial and strategic choices and the possibility of appointing the president. Air France-KLM had already been shareholders of Alitalia, reaching up to 25% in 2009, only to gradually reduce its shareholding starting from 2013. In the coming months – according to Certares’ promises – Air France and Delta should become shareholders : the former with 9.9% and the latter with 5%, thus reducing the share of the US fund to 40.1%.

The US fund

Certares was created in 2012 and the CEO is Greg O’Hara (who has dual Greek-Canadian nationality). The fund is headquartered in New York, with offices in Luxembourg and in Milan for a few months. Certares from a private equity fund invests in the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors – has stakes in American Express Global Business Travel, Tripadvisor, Hertz – for a market value of over 10 billion dollars (considering the co-investments).

The Lufthansa note

“From our point of view, our joint offer with MSC was and continues to be the best solution for Ita,” says Lufthansa in a note. “We take note of the decision of the Italian government to take a path that allows greater influence of the state and does not provide for a complete privatization of Ita – underlines the giant of the skies -. Even without a collaboration with Ita, our group maintains an excellent position on the Italian market. With our Italian airline Air Dolomiti and with all our airline brands we already have a strong presence, with around 4 million passengers and over 130 daily departures from 21 destinations. We will continue to expand this positioning with our strength and to further develop our offer to offer the best service to our Italian customers and passengers ».

The Franco-Dutch position

In the afternoon, the note from Air France-KLM also arrived. The group, it reads, “welcomes the announcement by the Italian government to grant the exclusivity to the consortium formed by Certares – as equity partner – and Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines – as commercial partners – for the next phase of negotiations for the possible acquisition of a stake held directly by the Ministry of Economy and Finance of the Italian government “. “Should this operation be concluded, Air France-KLM would become a commercial and operational partner of the Italian airline within the consortium led by Certares”. As explained several times by the Courier therefore «Air France-KLM is not investing in Ita’s capital structure at this stage. However, the Air France-KLM group could consider acquiring a minority stake in Ita in the medium term ”.

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