MILAN, May 26 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Italy’s epic airline soap opera has found a paradoxical end. After multiple sale attempts by Italian governments of all political leanings, plus over 10 billion euros of wasted state support, it’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni – an avowed nationalist – who is cutting the umbilical cord with the country’s state-owned national carrier.

Under a deal announced on Thursday, Rome agreed to sell to Deutsche Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) a 41% stake in ITA Airways, born in 2021 from the ashes of bankrupt Alitalia, for 325 million euros. The 11 billion euro German carrier, which has been seeking a purchase since at least 2017, plans to fully take over ITA in two more tranches by 2028 for 830 million euros overall, sources with knowledge of the deal told Reuters Breakingviews. The state will inject 250 million euros of equity in ITA before Lufthansa buys its initial minority stake.

The bigger irony is that Meloni has not exactly secured a knockout valuation. At 0.3 times projected 2023 revenue of 2.5 billion euros, the overall price tag is cheaper than the 0.5 times Lufthansa currently trades at, and also than the 1 billion euro-plus levels mooted last year. Sure, ITA is loss-making, its predecessor’s inability to make money warrants caution, and a future Italian government could change its tune. But Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr is still scooping up a supposed national treasure at an undemanding price. (By Lisa Jucca)

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(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are their own.)

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