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Italy’s First Female Prime Minister Could Prove a Disaster For Delta’s Bid to Buy Up Italian Flag Carrier

Italy’s First Female Prime Minister Could Prove a Disaster For Delta’s Bid to Buy Up Italian Flag Carrier

A joint bid between Delta Air Lines and the Air France-KLM Group to take over Italy’s new national flag carrier could have been dealt a fatal blow after Italian voters elected the country’s first-ever female Prime Minister.

The Delta consortium won the right to hold exclusive talks with the Italian government on a takeover of Italy’s ITA Airways last month, but that deal was struck with the outgoing Mario Draghi-led administration.

Draghi had been keen to offload a majority of ITA Airways onto a private bidder while retaining a minority share in the Rome-based carrier. His replacement, however, has been less than eager to sell off the country’s flag carrier to foreign companies.

Having claimed victory in Sunday’s general election, Giorgia Meloni, leader of the Brothers of Italy party, will become Italy’s new Prime Minister and form a new right-win coalition government.

Meloni has made no secret of the fact that she believes ITA Airways should remain 100% Italian.

Even before the preferred bidder for the airline was announced in August, Meloni had said that “everything can change following the vote and the relaunch of our national airline will be the responsibility of whoever governs.”

The 45-year-old politician and former journalist has promised to “carefully evaluate” the state’s presence in ITA Airways and has objected to foreign airlines taking an equity stake in the carrier.

A right-wing populist, Meloni sounded even less enthusiastic about the sale of the airline when Delta was named as the preferred bidder. Meloni complained that that selling a majority stake in the carrier would mean a “another piece of Italy is leaving”.

She has promised to give the airline a “defence strategy”.

So what does that mean for Delta? Not much at the moment. Despite Draghi’s hopes to offload ITA Airways as quickly as possible after it was officially launched in January, the sale process was always expected to drag on.

In fact, Draghi had originally hoped to sell ITA Airways predecessor Alitalia to a private bidder but despite some interest, the Italian government failed to get an offer that it was happy with.

Instead, Rome decided to shutter Alitalia and replace it with a debt-free replacement in the form of ITA Airways. Unsurprisingly, ITA Airways is quickly racking up debt which is why Draghi had wanted a quick sale. In the meantime, Italian taxpayers will continue to keep the airline financed.

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