Alitalia – a bride waiting at the altar

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Days ago a scoop announced: “The Italian State Railways” (FS) has given the “go ahead” for the purchase of Alitalia in full. 100%, to be more specific. A catch clause followed: provided that a foreign industrial partner turns up, to flank the Italian shareholders holding 51%. It must be a strong industrial partner that comes from the airline industry and that can enhance the long haul of Alitalia.

Names of possible grooms of the spinster were also mentioned: Delta Air Lines, easyJet, Lufthansa. The latter stated long ago that they would never consider associating with Alitalia supported by the Italian government.

“Delta Air Lines, which has presented a binding offer, would be the right partner, according to the top management of Fs (who have already met the top of the US carrier), but also the easyJet’s offer remains, that would still want a renovated Alitalia” as stated by the economic daily Il Sole 24 Ore.

To date, the names of many airlines and other suitors were mentioned as expressing interest in Alitalia, but, as it were, one by one they came and one by one they have disappeared, including the US Cerberus Fund.

After the first contacts last spring, however, the handful of US investors seem to have vanished into thin air, leaving room for a new interest from the neighboring Canadian Brookfield fund to enter the new Alitalia, supporting the project of Ferrovie dello Stato.

The project was reported by Il Sole 24 Ore and promptly denied by a note released by the Brookfield Group.

Lufthansa, therefore, would continue to examine the Alitalia dossier, flanked by the advisor Merrill Lynch, with the aim of overseeing a peculiar market, like the Italian one, where, despite the recent investment plan for Air Dolomiti, the growth space is still high.

The company, led by Gianfranco Battisti, meanwhile, continues with the analysis of the airline data and works on several tables, talking to hypothetical project partners, like the binding and non-binding offers, received last October 31, for the purchase of Alitalia are still being examined by the backhoe set up by Luigi Gubitosi, Stefano Paleari and Enrico Laghi.

The latest rumors give the end of this week as the deadline, by which the three will deliver their report to the Mise’s monitoring committee. Which, on the basis of this report, will express its opinion, preparatory to the decision of the dicastery on the subject with which to start the exclusive negotiation.

The new deal could start as early as the beginning of 2019, but Battisti would like guarantees on the conditions established with the Ministry of Economic Development: a strong industrial partner!

The economic daily stresses that Delta Air Lines, which has presented a binding offer, would be the right partner according to the top management of FS (who have already met the top brass of the US carrier), but also the easyJet offer remains that would still want a renovated Alitalia.

ANTITRUST CONTROLS

Meanwhile, the spotlight of the Antitrust is on the entire Alitalia-FS operation: the Competition Guarantor will be called to assess the effects of the merger of the two subjects that today represent the backbone of rail and air transport in Italy.

Just think of the Rome-Milan route where FS already holds 65% share and that with the acquisition of Alitalia it would reach a market share of over 75%.

Among the hypotheses, ventilated by the media in these hours, there would be the possibility that the Guarantor requires the sale of slots and railway sections to rebalance the two reference scenarios (railways and air transport) where the new subject would have a concentration of services too high and damage of competition.

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