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    Lufthansa closes in on stake in Italy’s ITA Airways

    FRANKFURT (AFP) – German airline giant Lufthansa submitted a fresh offer on Wednesday for Italy’s troubled ITA Airways, bringing a turbulent takeover process closer to the finish line.

    Lufthansa’s proposal would see the carrier initially take a minority stake in state-owned ITA, with the option “to purchase the remaining shares at a later date”, it said in a statement.

    No financial details were disclosed, but Bloomberg News reported earlier that the deal could see Lufthansa pay up to EUR350 million (USD375 million) for an initial 40-per-cent stake before increasing its ownership to 100 per cent.

    Italy’s economy ministry confirmed on Wednesday it had received Lufthansa’s letter of intent for a minority stake in ITA, saying it “reserves the right to examine the fairness of the offer”.

    “No other offers were received by the deadline of 6pm today,” it said in a brief statement.

    Italy’s previous government launched the process last year of selling off a majority of ITA Airways, the successor to the iconic but loss-making national carrier Alitalia.

    An Airbus A330-202 bearing the ITA Airways livery taking off from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. PHOTO: AFP

    The government, under then-premier Mario Draghi, at first preferred a bid by United States (US) investment fund Certares, Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines.

    But when those negotiations failed to make headway, Italy’s new right-wing cabinet under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni declared in late October that the period of exclusivity talks had ended – putting Lufthansa back in the running.

    The German group – which also owns Swiss, Brussels and Austrian Airlines – has always made clear it was interested in a “true privatisation” of ITA Airways.

    Swiss shipping giant MSC had teamed up with Lufthansa in the first round of bidding but said in November it was pulling out, leaving Lufthansa to pursue the deal alone.

    Separately, Air France-KLM said on Wednesday it had informed the Italian government it was dropping out of the race too, clearing the path for rival Lufthansa as the sole bidder.

    Lufthansa hopes to turn Rome into a key European travel hub, including by offering direct flights to Italy from the US, its biggest market.

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