Ryanair says it has no interest in buying Air Italy

MILAN (Reuters) - Ryanair's RYA.I chief commercial officer on Thursday denied any interest in buying Air Italy after press reports linking his group to the loss-making airline, which was put into liquidation by its owners earlier this week.

FILE PHOTO: David O'Brien, Chief Commercial Officer of Ryanair attends a press conference in Frankfurt, Germany, November 2, 2016. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Air Italy’s owners Qatar Airways and regional carrier Alisarda blamed “persistent and structural market problems” for the decision to pull the plug on Tuesday.

Asked about Italian press reports that Ryanair was preparing an offer, chief commercial officer David O’Brien said his group was not interested and had not been approached.

“Let’s clear the room ... We have no interest whatsoever in buying Air Italy. It would be pointless,” he told reporters at an event in Milan.

He added Ryanair did not see “any value” in Air Italy and that its only interesting slots would be those at Milan’s Linate airport, but these would be too expensive.

Qatar Airways bought a 49% stake in loss making Air Italy in 2017 and rebranded it, pushing for the carrier to add more long-haul flights to its popular domestic routes - mainly to and from the island of Sardinia.

Regional carrier Alisarda, controlled by the Aga Khan, owns the remaining 51%.

State-owned Qatar airlines said on Tuesday it was ready to invest further in Air Italy, but under current rules foreign investors cannot own more than 49% of a European airline.

Despite an increase in sales, estimated at 330 million euros ($358 million) in 2019, Air Italy expected 230 million euros in losses for the same period, a statement by Alisarda said.

Two commissioners have been appointed to carry out the liquidation process of Air Italy, which has 13 leased planes and just under 1,500 workers. Under the procedure, the airline will pay back its debts in full.

Reporting by Elisa Anzolin, editing by Giulia Segreti and Mark Potter