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EU probes Lufthansa’s proposed ITA Airways stake

The EU’s powerful antitrust authority launched an in-depth investigation on Tuesday into German airline Lufthansa’s proposed stake in Italy’s ITA Airways, over fears it could hurt competition. The European Commission said it had “preliminary concerns that the transaction may reduce competition in the market for passenger air transport services on several short-haul and long-haul routes in and out of Italy”. Lufthansa, one of Europe’s biggest carriers, last year agreed to pay 325 million euros ($350 million) for a 41 percent stake in ITA and that the Italian finance ministry would also contribute 250 million euros. The deal provided the German company various options to increase its stake or acquire ITA Airways outright at a later date. The commission said it was notified of the transaction on November 30, 2023, and on January 8 this year, Lufthansa submitted commitments to address some of its concerns. “However, these commitments were insufficient, in terms of both scope and effectiveness, to clearly dismiss the commission’s preliminary concerns,” it said in a statement. The EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said the EU wanted to make sure that the deal did not lead to “higher prices, less capacity or lower quality for passenger air transport services in and out of Italy”. The commission must make a final decision by June 6 this year.

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