First, the compromises necessary to secure an agreement that will change European skies. Then the offensive of the rivals to resist.
And, in the end, a notification arrived respecting the times marked by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Chancellor Olaf Scholz in the setting of their last meeting on German soil.
After long months of intense talks on the Rome-Berlin-Brussels axis, Ita and Lufthansa take a decisive step to celebrate the wedding at the dawn of the new year. Now everything will depend on the European Commission's antitrust services, ready to launch a formal investigation that - in the best case scenario - could lead to the coveted placet on January 15, 2024. Otherwise, and with the issue of routes still to be resolved, the investigation aimed at avoiding disturbances to the internal market could continue for another three and a half months, thus encroaching on the spring.
The impressive package of the agreement signed on May 25 by the Treasury and the German giant - with Lufthansa acquiring 41% of Ita Airways through a capital increase of 325 million euros, with the option to acquire the remaining shares at a later date - has landed on the table of the head of EU Competition, Didier Reynders, after a discussion that led the parties to dissect and anticipate all the possible obstacles to the proper functioning of the internal market, seeking to put solid remedies to the test of EU scrutiny.
In all these months, the Antitrust lens has focused straight on the multiple routes on which the two carriers already operate in "monopoly or duopoly situations" - especially the Lufthansa hubs, from Linate and Fiumicino to Frankfurt and Munich, passing through Vienna, Brussels and Zurich -, that guarantee of "economic discontinuity" with respect to the old Alitalia promised by Rome for the newco, and the current environment of skyrocketing airline ticket prices. Complex negotiations that, according to rumors, will lead the company that rose from the ashes of Alitalia to sacrifice the Milan-New York route by giving in to the pressure of competitor Air France, worried that the Italian-German marriage could grant a disproportionate competitive advantage on transoceanic routes.
In the hope of both Rome and Berlin to have responded to all EU fears, ITA and Lufthansa have already said they are ready to start their cooperation at a commercial and operational level "immediately after receiving the desired authorization", with the entry of the Italian carrier into the European group that also includes Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings and Air Dolomiti. To leave other questions open, however, there are the plethora of competing companies - not only Air France annoyed on the routes, but also the fierce Ryanair - which have already promised battle in court in the event of an EU green light. In the background, then, there is a rapidly changing airline sector that responds to new logics and that Brussels is monitoring carefully. Now the necessary technical time of analysis will lead to the final judgment. Rome's stated goal is to bring the newco into profit within two years.
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