Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines (DL, Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson) have expressed an interest in acquiring a majority stake in ITA Airways (AZ, Rome Fiumicino), sending a joint one-and-a half-page letter to the current owner, Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance, a government source who saw the document told La Repubblica daily on March 10.

The two longtime partners and Skyteam alliance members aim to conduct the purchase with the support of an unnamed international fund that is active in the tourism sector, the letter reportedly said. With this fund’s participation, Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Delta aim to consolidate their relationships with the cruise and leisure travel sectors.

The bid would be a counter-proposal to the expression of interest (EOI) that Lufthansa and shipping giant MSC lodged in late January, which was later clarified to be a combination of a Lufthansa minority and MSC majority stake.

And a third expression of interest has arrived from another international fund, again unnamed in La Repubblica’s report, which, the source claimed, had previously invested in “the world’s most important low-cost carriers.”

The privatisation of Alitalia’s successor thus comes to life. For now, the ITA Airways “data room” - which will give credible candidates access to the slimmed-down flag carrier’s books and confidential documents - remains closed. First, the ministry will have to confirm two advisors - one financial, the other legal - who, once operational, will embark on evaluating the three EOIs.

Together with the legal advisor, the Italian and European authorities will also have to assess the impact that an alliance with one of the three parties would have on competition. Finally, an agreement with the winning entity will establish who will have ultimate control over the Italian carrier and what the rights of the minority shareholders will be.

Post-privatisation, the Ministry of Economy and Finance will be a minority shareholder while retaining legal instruments that safeguard the interests of the state such as the stability of the ownership structure, the enhancement of Italy’s hubs, the development of strategic and long-haul markets, and the company’s employment prospects.

Air France-KLM, Delta, and Virgin Atlantic told the news agency Reuters in a statement that they were committed to working with the management of the new Alitalia “to deepen our cooperation, including potential associate membership of the airlines’ expanded joint venture launched in 2020” but declined to comment further.