The goal is to close the negotiations to privatize Ita Airways within ten days, that is, on September 15, with the Certares fund which is ready to hire 1,500 employees next year, increasing planes (from 63 to 100) and routes. Thus dodging the torpedoes of the parties, the reaction of the defeated consortium and that of Berlin. It is no mystery that the MSC-Lufthansa tandem, after taking note of the decision of the Ministry of Economy, is back in pressure, focusing on extra time. Just as they ask to be able to say their Brothers of Italy and a part of Forza Italia. But these are electoral moves rather than real thrusts. So much so that Palazzo Chigi insists on going straight, accelerating the negotiations with the consortium led by the American Fund with Delta and Air France-KLM.
After all, the consortium that initiated the exclusive confrontation with the Mef is firmly intent on reaching the goal and will do everything to hit it after the comeback at the last minute. «We are strongly convinced – they say from the Milan headquarters of the US giant – of our vision for the development of the company, which we hope to be able to implement the achievement of the definitive and binding agreements. We will work for this with Mef, with Ita, with our partners in the Delta consortium and AirFrance-KLM ».
The trump card is the employment one. In fact, the American fund shares the trajectory indicated by the industrial plan developed by CEO Fabio Lazzerini and president Alfredo Altavilla – both will probably be confirmed – which foresees constant growth. Not only. The plan will be implemented: starting from the current situation with 3,500 employees and 63 planes (700 pilots and 1,360 flight attendants) to arrive next year, with the increase in routes and planes, to 5,000, with a leap therefore of 1,500 employees; the following year, further growth of 500 units. Figures that the new investors intend to correct again upwards as the network will be expanded especially towards North America (new destinations and greater frequencies towards the USA and South America, in particular focus on Boston, Baltimore, Washington and Toronto). But the idea is also to increase flights to Africa and Asia.
The unions have done the math: if it really goes like this between Ita, Swissport and Atitech, which have taken over handling and maintenance, about 7,000 employees will finally be safe compared to the more than 10,000 of the old Alitalia. However, the knot of the approximately 3,000 who remained out of the Cig, of which 1,000 would be of retirement age, must be resolved. The arrival of new members could favor a relocation, at least that’s what Fit-Cisl and the other trade unions hope.
Precisely to have guarantees on jobs, the Treasury will remain with a 49% stake in the airline and with well-defined powers on strategic choices. To strengthen the hold, both Delta and Air-France KLM will subsequently enter the capital, the former quickly, the latter after settling a series of internal issues related to state aid received from Paris. The operational management will obviously be in the hands of the industrial partners who will also decline the development plan.
After all, the transformation from simple commercial partners of Certares to shareholders has changed the fate of the dispute. Air France has reserved 9.9% of the shares of the Italian carrier, Certares will have, at least at the beginning, 50% plus one share. Delta, in perspective, will be 10%. But it is not clear whether Certares will sell a share or the Treasury itself, or both.
After the negotiation, which as mentioned will be particularly tight, the Treasury will have two paths ahead. He could sign a simple memorandum of understanding with Certares and his allies: the act, which is important on a symbolic level, would not be binding, that is, it would not commit the future government to sell Ita and in the end it would leave hands free to the new tenant of Palazzo Chigi. The other way, the most probable one, involves the signing of two contracts, the first with the actual sale, another with the agreements between shareholders. A binding package – with the industrial plan inside – difficult to dismantle, if not at the cost of very high penalties.
Penalties that the new government, if it wanted to reconsider, could obviously pay. Failure or delayed privatization would put thousands of jobs at risk as it is unlikely that Ita could survive the winter unscathed without a new injection of capital. Starting a negotiation from scratch would have enormous social costs with at least uncertain outcomes, but since it is Ita, born from the ashes of Alitalia, one can never say never. Prime Minister Draghi aims to subvert this theorem. And he will probably succeed.
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