German airline group Lufthansa said today it is not interested in snapping up troubled Italian carrier Alitalia, as Rome hunts for a buyer after workers rejected a bailout plan. “We are clearly not there to buy Alitalia,” finance chief Ulrik Svensson said during a teleconference with analysts on Lufthansa’s first-quarter financial results. Italian government ministers said Wednesday they would not oppose a takeover bid by the German behemoth, as they announced that Alitalia would be sold “to the highest bidder”.
Lufthansa, which already owns a stable of carriers including Austrian Airlines, Swiss, Brussels Airlines, and Eurowings, on Thursday reported a net loss of 68 million euros between January and March -a worse performance than the same period last year.
The result comes after a record year for Frankfurt-based Lufthansa, in which it booked profits of 1.75 billion euros (USD 1.90 billion) despite fierce competition from low-cost competitors and Gulf airlines such as Etihad. Loss-making Alitalia’s future is up in the air after its workforce rejected a restructuring plan which management had presented as the only alternative to bankruptcy.
Etihad, which owns a 49 percent stake in Alitalia, and other shareholders had made staff acceptance of the plan a precondition for their participation in a two-billion-euro recapitalisation plan involving a combination of loans and new shareholder financing.
But despite earlier proposals being watered down in negotiations with unions, over two-thirds of staff voted to reject them in a ballot on Monday, in which more than 90 percent of employees took part. The company’s board on Tuesday asked the government to appoint administrators to find a purchaser or organise the winding up of the company.
Etihad also holds a stake in struggling German airline Air Berlin, which has delayed the release of its 2016 annual results — widely expected to show the firm in a poor light — until Friday. Lufthansa has been mooted as a potential buyer for Air Berlin in the German press if the Gulf carrier decides to review its strategy in Europe.