ITA Airways (AZ, Rome Fiumicino) has received an expression of interest (EOI) from Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) Group and Lufthansa (LH, Frankfurt International) to acquire a majority stake in the Alitalia successor and have requested 90 days of exclusivity to work on a proposal, ITA announced in a statement on January 24.

MSC said in its own release on the same date that its “interest derives from the possibility of activating positive synergies for both companies in the cargo and passenger sectors where MSC Group is a global leader.” A Swiss-Italian shipping line, Geneva-headquartered MSC surpassed Maersk in late 2021 to become the world’s biggest container shipping line. It also operates MSC Cruises, a holiday cruise division.

“MSC Group aims to create a partnership with the Italian government and Lufthansa as the project’s industrial partner. Lufthansa has already expressed its interest in taking part in the initiative,” it elaborated.

ITA Airways said it “is satisfied that the work carried out in recent months to offer the best prospects to the company is starting to have the expected results, providing for a company recognised as viable for partners of international reputation both in passenger and cargo transport,” adding that its board of directors will examine the details of the EOI in an upcoming meeting.

Competing groups IAG International Airlines Group, Lufthansa, and Air France-KLM have all expressed a desire to become a partner for ITA, though some currently have more resources to do so than others. The Italian carrier’s executive president, Alfredo Altavilla, has commented that ITA is too small to survive as a standalone company and has been in talks to find an equity partner.

Sources told Reuters on January 23 that Lufthansa was negotiating to buy 40% of ITA Airways. Another source told the news agency the following day that if the Italian government green-lights the EOI, ITA’s board will discuss whether to enter exclusive talks with the two companies at a meeting scheduled for January 31. At the same time, MSC and Lufthansa will decide on their respective involvement in a possible deal after studying the Italian airline’s financial data.