Italy aims to cut stakes in Monte Paschi bank, ITA Airways by end of 2024

By Giuseppe Fonte and Angelo Amante

ROME (Reuters) – Italy will try to complete the privatisation of bailed-out bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) and the sale of a 41% stake in national airline ITA Airways by the end of next year, the economy minister said on Monday.

The issues of MPS and ITA, Alitalia’s loss-making successor, have long dragged on in Italian politics, with successive governments failing to sell shares in the two companies despite several attempts.

After a failed bid to sell MPS to UniCredit in 2021, Italy agreed with the European Commission new privatisation terms that were never fully disclosed.

Under the deal struck at the time of MPS’s 5.4-billion-euro ($5.69 billion) bailout in 2017, Rome is bound to eventually sell its 64% stake.

“Yes,” Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti replied when asked, at a press conference after presenting Italy’s 2024 budget, whether MPS could return to private hands by the end of next year.

Italy has also been in talks with European Union competition authorities to secure informal backing to a deal to sell a 41% stake in ITA to Germany’s Lufthansa.

Giorgetti said he hoped to go ahead with the formal notification of the deal to Brussels by the end of October, after the issue sparked tension between Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and the EU last month.

Meloni said Brussels had been blocking the deal with Lufthansa, urging the Commission to explain the reason.

Both ITA and MPS are part of a wider 20/21 billion euro sell-off plan announced by the Treasury to keep in check Italy’s debt pile, the second-largest in the euro zone as a proportion of gross domestic output.

Giorgetti also suggested this month that the government intends to sell stakes in the state-owned railways Ferrovie dello Stato and motorway network.

An option being considered is offering regulated returns to the railway group to woo private investors ahead of a listing, a source familiar with the matter said.

($1 = 0.9492 euros)

(Additional reporting by Giselda Vagnoni; Editing by Susan Fenton)