German airline Lufthansa signs deal for minority stake in Italy’s struggling ITA Airways

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German airline Lufthansa on Thursday signed a deal with the Italian government for a minority share in the long-struggling ITA Airways, formerly Alitalia.

Lufthansa’s industrial plan calls for revenues of 2.5 billion euros ($2.68 billion) this year, growing to 4.1 billion euros in 2027, the Italian Finance Ministry said in a statement. No financial terms were disclosed.

The cashflow will allow ITA airlines to expand its fleet from 71 aircraft to 94 in the next four years, the statement said. The airline also foresees new hires to expand the workforce to 5,500.

Under the strategy, Rome’s Fiumicino airport will become one of the Lufthansa Group’s hubs, as ITA Airways focuses on long-range flights. Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr also identified Milan, Italy’s business and finance hub, as having potential for growth.

The must be approved by EU competition authorities.

ITA Airways and its Alitalia predecessor have long been searching for an industrial partner as the Italian airline lost out on domestic and European routes to low-cost carriers. A string deals with potential and real partners had all fallen through over the last 15 years.

ITA officially launched in October 2021 after bankrupt flag carrier Alitalia landed its final flight, ending a 74-year run which in later years was characterized by financial uncertainty and slides into bankruptcy.

Lufthansa was the only airline that submitted an offer in the latest tender earlier this year.

The German airline already operates Air Dolomiti in northern Italy, funneling long distance traffic from cities like Milan, Verona and Venice to connections in Munich and Frankfurt.

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