EU’s Decision on Lufthansa’s Acquisition of Ita Set for Release: Will Antitrust Concerns Derail the Merger?

Ita and Lufthansa’s marriage set to face challenges in Brussels

The European Union (EU) is set to release new communication regarding the purchase of Ita by Lufthansa in the coming days, possibly as early as next week. The EU antitrust investigation into this operation began on 23 January and is set to conclude on 6 June. There has been discussion around possible objections that could be raised by EU institutions, particularly concerning the potential monopoly position that may be established on certain routes due to Lufthansa’s existing portfolio of airlines.

Low-cost carriers have been eagerly waiting to see if Lufthansa and Ita will be required to sell off some valuable slots at major Italian airports, such as Fiumicino and Linate, if the merger is approved. Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, suggested that the European Commission should approve the operation on the condition that 30% of Fiumicino’s slots are relinquished and distributed among other airlines to ensure real competition.

The agreement between the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance (Mef) and Lufthansa for the sale of an initial 41% stake in Ita for 325 million euros was made almost a year ago, in May 2023. The Minister of Economy, Giancarlo Giorgetti, has voiced frustration with the lengthy process and urged the EU institutions to move forward with the approval. Both Lufthansa’s CEO, Carsten Spohr, and EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager have expressed optimism about the progress of the acquisition despite some delays.

Overall, it remains uncertain whether any objections will be raised by EU institutions or if they will approve

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