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Lufthansa Faces EU Antitrust Warning Over ITA Airways Stake Bid

 |  March 3, 2024

In a bid to acquire a minority stake in ITA Airways, Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) finds itself on the brink of an EU antitrust warning, signaling potential hurdles in its pursuit of expansion. Sources with direct insight into the matter disclosed that the German airline anticipates the warning to be issued in the forthcoming weeks. However, Lufthansa remains resolute, prepared to offer targeted solutions to assuage competition concerns raised by European regulatory authorities.

Lufthansa’s ambition entails securing a 41% stake in the state-owned Italian counterpart, involving a financial commitment of 325 million euros ($351.4 million) as part of a capital augmentation strategy. This move signifies a significant maneuver in the airline industry, potentially reshaping the dynamics of European air travel.

The European Commission initiated a comprehensive investigation into the proposed deal back in January, citing apprehensions regarding its potential repercussions on competition within the passenger air transport sector. The scrutiny primarily centers on the conceivable reduction of competition across various short-haul and long-haul routes should the acquisition proceed unchecked.

Read more: EU Court OKs Lufthansa & EasyJet To Buy Air Berlin Assets

During the preliminary review phase, Lufthansa presented remedial measures in response to the concerns raised by the EU watchdog. Despite these efforts, regulatory apprehensions persisted, leading to the rejection of Lufthansa’s proposed remedies. Consequently, the German carrier finds itself at a crucial juncture, navigating through the intricacies of EU antitrust regulations in its pursuit of expansion opportunities.

The European Commission, slated to render a verdict on the proposed deal by June 6, refrained from providing any commentary on the ongoing proceedings. However, industry observers keenly await the regulatory decision, recognizing its potential ramifications on the competitive landscape of European aviation.

The outcome of this regulatory saga holds implications not only for Lufthansa and ITA Airways but also for stakeholders across the broader aviation industry. It underscores the delicate balance between fostering competition and facilitating strategic alliances within the fiercely competitive realm of international air travel.

Source: Reuters