(Adds ENAC regulator on CAI launch date)
MILAN, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Lufthansa’s (LHAG.DE) plans to set up its own Italian airline do not make it less of a candidate to be Alitalia’s AZPIa.MI partner, a member of the investor group buying the Italian carrier’s assets said on Thursday.
The German carrier said on Wednesday it would set up an Italian airline early next year as it vied with Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) to strike an alliance with bankrupt Alitalia. Its assets are being bought by the CAI consortium of top Italian businessmen.
Lufthansa said the move did not mean it was “closing the door” on its ambitions to tie up with the Italian airline.
When asked if Lufthansa’s move would hurt its prospects for becoming Alitalia’s partner, Pirelli & C PECI.MI Chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera, an investor in CAI, told reporters: “It doesn’t change anything.”
He told a briefing the priority for CAI was to choose a partner that would help it build a competitive airline.
CAI is buying Alitalia for 427 million euros ($550.8 million) and working to relaunch it as a smaller, more efficient carrier next month.
The airline picked as foreign partner is expected to buy a 20 percent stake.
On CAI’s launch date, Italy civil aviation regulator ENAC said CAI would not be able to start airline operations on Dec. 1 as planned. In a statement, it did not give a date for the start-up.
ENAC has completed its examination for awarding CAI its passenger licence and operator certificate. ENAC can only issue these when it has evidence CAI has available the necessary financial resources for operating, it said.
“In addition, the documentation has to be finalised for the transfer of ownership of airplanes between the old and new companies,” it said. (Reporting by Gilles Castonguay; Editing by David Cowell and Andrew Macdonald)