Delta and EasyJet confirmed on Wednesday that they had teamed up with the state-backed Italian railroad company Ferrovie dello Stato to examine an offer to acquire the troubled national airline Alitalia.
A sale of Alitalia, which was put into administration in 2017, after a series of restructurings and investments over the past decade had not helped to relocate the Italian airline's assets, was in preparation for years and attracted a handful of interested bidders.
Ferrovie dello Stato said it would enter into negotiations with Delta and EasyJet to agree on a plan for Alitalia. Delta and EasyJet confirmed that talks were being held with the state-sponsored railway company. EasyJet points out that there is "no certainty" that a transaction will be made to purchase a stake in Alitalia.
To reach a deal, EasyJet and Delta would have to convince the Italian government that they are the best partners for stabilizing Alitalia, which has suffered huge financial losses and has been struggling with low-cost competitors.
The Italian media reported Wednesday that the country's right-wing populist coalition government would tend to support a deal with Delta and EasyJet as long as Ferrovie dello Stato had a controlling stake in Alitalia.
The sale and restructuring of Alitalia had previously been delayed by the change of government in Rome. The new populist leadership has made it clear to potential bidders that each offer should include a domestic group that owns a controlling stake in Alitalia.
"The government is ready to participate in the creation of a new Alitalia by the Ministry of Economy, provided that it complies with European rules and a sustainable business plan exists," Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a statement. Mr Conte had met with his deputy Luigi Di Maio and Economy Minister Giovanni Tria on Wednesday to discuss a rescue plan for Alitalia.
The loss-making airline was previously circumnavigated by supporters and, prior to its collapse in 2017, had the Gulf airline Etihad as a minority shareholder. Previously, the international airlines Lufthansa and Air France-KLM as well as the private equity group Cerberus Capital Management had approached Alitalia.
Lufthansa has stated that it is interested in acquiring Alitalia only if the airline in the administration carries out a substantial job cuts. The German airline has also linked its offer to the condition that it has full control of Alitalia without the government requiring it. Air France-KLM was not expected to be interested in the airline again in the last round of tendering, the FT reported last year.