Shipping group MSC interested in majority of ITA, managing it

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ROME, Jan 27 (Reuters) – Shipping company MSC wants to hold a majority stake in ITA Airways and be able to run the Italian carrier, the chairman of the Swiss-based group was quoted as saying in an interview with daily Corriere della Sera published on Thursday.

“The main point is to have the majority of ITA Airways. (Lufthansa) can enter as a commercial partner or minority shareholder,” Gianluigi Aponte, founder and chairman of MSC, one of the world’s leading shipping companies, told the paper.

He added that MSC would want to manage ITA and would not be a “sleeping partner”.

On Monday MSC and Lufthansa said they were interested in buying the majority of Alitalia’s successor ITA and had asked for a 90-day exclusivity period to study the deal.

Aponte said that MSC would not want to change ITA’s management, which he defined “great”, but would rather sit in the board.

In a separate report in daily Il Messaggero, Aponte was quoted as saying that it was “likely” that ITA could be worth up to 1.5 billion euros ($1.68 billion) and that the group would verify the value as soon as it would gain access to documents.

State-owned ITA, which has replaced cash-strapped Alitalia and started flying in October, has been looking for equity partners.

MSC, which has both freight and passenger divisions, with brands MSC Cruises, SNAV and Grandi Navi Veloci, aims to create synergies with ITA in the cargo and cruise businesses.

If the Italian government gives its green light, ITA’s management will examine details of the expression of interest and decide whether to enter exclusive talks with the two partners.

($1 = 0.8913 euros)

(Reporting by Giulia Segreti; editing by Agnieszka Flak)

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