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Ryanair and Lufthansa in the running for Alitalia assets

by Andrea Gagliardi & Giorgio Pogliotti

Administrators of stricken Italian airline Alitalia have received 32 expressions of interest from potential buyers, its extraordinary commissioner Stefano Paleari said on Tuesday.

“The work has just begun,” said Paleari. “There are 32 expressions of interest that we are opening, assessing and classifying.”

Not all of them however have solid requisites and the initial number could decline. Ryanair has confirmed to Sole 24 Ore-ItalyEurope24 that it sent an expression of interest for the former flagship airline, specifying that it does not want to purchase the carrier, but it is interested in its long-haul routes.

Ryanair: presented feeder offer
Ryanair has presented “a feeder offer for the long haul flights of Alitalia,” said John Alborante, spokesman for the Irish company, explaining that “the details of the offer will be announced by the administrators,” and confirming that “Ryanair is not interested in purchasing the whole company.” “We have also spoken to the government, and we have said that we are ready to put forward 20 aircraft if Alitalia cuts its routes,” he said.

Lufthansa: we are not buying but we are eyeing the fleet
There is big suspense around knowing the details of the names. But the administrators have a duty of confidentiality.

Lufthansa has also come forward.

“We do not have the intention to purchase Alitalia,” said Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr, speaking in Cancun, according to news agency Bloomberg. “But Italy is a very important market for us for long haul services, we are looking very closely at the opportunities that are emerging.”

The company could consider buying some of Alitalia's assets, said Spohr, “such as the fleet and slots in case they are put up for sale.”

Number of expressions of interest higher than expected
The 32 expressions of interest, resulting from the first step of the tender, have been welcomed with relief by the government, the company's administrators, and workers, seeing as just a while ago there were fears that no one would come forward, due to the conditions the airline finds itself in after going into extraordinary administration on May 2.

It is “a result beyond expectations,” said the president of Civil Aviation Authority Enac, Vito Riggio. “It would be good if there was a big European company that wanted to take Alitalia, but I think it needs a strong relaunch.”

Since Monday, various names of potential purchasers have circulated: from the U.S. firm Delta (which revealed that it “continues to monitor the progress of Alitalia since it entered extraordinary administration”), as well as other big players, such as the Chinese Hainan Airlines and Air China, Air France, British Airways and Turkish Airlines, as well as Etihad Airways, which said it was “open to explore all options to maintain and potentially strengthen links,” with Alitalia.

Delrio: expressions of interest good, convinced there will be a solution
The announcement published on May 17 foresees three options for Alitalia: the restructuring of the company, the sale in a block or the sale of its assets and contracts. The administrators and the government are inclined toward the first two solutions.

“Alitalia as a whole is an interesting asset,” said Transport Minister Graziano Delrio. “I have always said that I believe a solution to this industrial crisis will be found.”

On Thursday EU to review norms on ownership and control
The EU Commission is set to present a package of measures on aviation tomorrow (“Open and Connected Aviation”) which will contain new guidelines on ownership and control of aircraft. According to sources close to the matter, while not touching the cap of 49% for non-European ownership of EU airlines, the guidelines will include an interpretation that could open the way to a softening of the restriction. The guidelines on ownership and control are set to indicate how to calculate control, based on financial and commercial links between non-EU investors and the airline. The clarification is aimed at facilitating investments.