Delta, Air France-KLM eye majority stake in ITA Airways - paper

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Delta Airlines planes are loaded and unloaded as travel has cutback amid concerns of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S. April 14, 2020. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart/Files

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MILAN, March 10 (Reuters) - Delta Airlines and Air France-KLM have teamed up with an unidentified fund to express an interest in a majority stake in ITA Airways, daily La Repubblica said on Thursday, setting the stage for a potential bid battle for the successor to Alitalia.

The expression of interest was presented to Italy's government in a letter, the paper said, citing a government source.

A further expression of interest arrived from another international fund which is already invested in low-cost carriers, the paper added.

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A Delta (DAL.N) spokesperson said the U.S. airline had regular contact with the ITA leadership but did not comment directly on the report.

"Delta has a longstanding history with the former Alitalia and has created a partnership with ITA Airways which Delta is committed to strengthening," the spokesperson said.

Air France-KLM (AIRF.PA) also declined to comment on the report, reiterating it was committed to deepening cooperation with ITA. It was often seen as a potential partner for Alitalia but nothing ever came of the speculation.

The Italian government had no immediate comment.

Air France-KLM and Delta both have codeshare partnerships with ITA, the slimmed down successor to Alitalia which started operations last October.

Shipping group MSC said in January it had joined forces with German airline Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) to an express an interest in ITA as the Italian government looks to reduce its stake. read more

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Reporting by Maria Pia Quaglia and Agnieszka Flak in Milan and Juliette Jabkhiro in Paris Editing by Keith Weir and Mark Potter

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