EU commission approves Lufthansa purchase of long-troubled Italian airline ITA, with conditions

MILAN — The European Commission on Wednesday approved Lufthansa’s takeover of Italian airline ITA with conditions to protect competition in a deal that Italy’s finance minister called “historic.”

Lufthansa will invest 325 million euros ($350 million) to acquire a 41% stake in ITA, formerly Alitalia, from the Italian government, gaining full control by 2033 with a total investment of 829 million euros.

The commission approved the deal after a year-long investigation and with conditions to protect competition, noting that Lufthansa, ITA and its partners, for example, control most routes from Rome and Milan to North America.

Under the deal, the merged company must make it possible for rival airlines to launch non-stop flights between Rome or Milan and central European airports, where competition is limited; make room for rivals on long-haul routes between Italy and the United States and Canada, and allot slots at Milan’s Linate airlines to competitors.

Italian Finance Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti said the deal frees the Italian government from pumping money into the loss-making company, which the state took over most recently in 2021. As Alitalia, the company was in and out of bankruptcy, and at one point was controlled by Abu Dhabi carrier Etihad Airlines.

“And so finishes the era of state aid,’’ Giorgetti told a press conference in Rome.

He said the Lufthansa deal will make it possible to develop ITA’s routes “in the interest of the Italian economy,’’ noting that Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci Airport would be the hub for routes to North America, Asia and Africa, which are important for tourism.

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