Lufthansa’s Bid for ITA Airways Faces EU Antitrust Scrutiny Amidst Slot Concessions
Lufthansa’s ambitious move to acquire a controlling minority stake in Italy’s ITA Airways has entered a crucial phase as the German airline seeks approval from the European Union antitrust regulators. The proposed 41% stake purchase, valued at 325 million euros ($354.71 million), is part of a broader capital increase, with Lufthansa expressing a keen interest in bolstering its presence in the European aviation landscape.
In an effort to allay potential competition concerns, sources reveal that Lufthansa is prepared to make concessions, including the ceding of take-off and landing slots at Milan-Linate Airport. This proactive step is aimed at addressing any regulatory apprehensions and ensuring a smooth approval process from the European Commission, which is expected to make a decision by January 15, 2024, according to a filing on its official website.
The agreement between Lufthansa and the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) in June paved the way for this strategic minority stake acquisition. The deal not only involves the immediate purchase of a significant stake but also includes options for Lufthansa to acquire additional shares in ITA Airways at a later date.
Upon securing EU approval, ITA Airways and Lufthansa Group are poised to commence a collaborative effort at both commercial and operational levels, according to a Lufthansa company spokesperson. The Italian Treasury, in collaboration with Lufthansa, has jointly submitted the request for approval to the European Commission.
The Commission now faces the decision of either approving the deal, potentially with specific remedies, or initiating a more in-depth four-month investigation if serious concerns arise during the preliminary review. This transaction is a key component of Lufthansa’s broader strategy to fortify its foothold in the European aviation market, and the outcome of the antitrust review will undoubtedly shape the future dynamics of the industry in the region.