The news about MSC’s interest
in ITA Airways recently hit the Italian TV, despite this being the
period of the complicated election of President Mattarella’s
successor, naturally taking the front line. MSC’s move is a
big deal then, and it is in line with anything Gianluigi Aponte -
founder and executive chairman of the Mediterranean Shipping Company
group – has ever done. MSC had already taken the stage in the
transportation and logistics industry by being crowned biggest liners
of the world last year, just ahead of Maersk by a neck, and now: MSC
takes wings? On January 24th MSC expressed interest to acquire ITA
Airways, with the aim of partnering with the Italian government and
. . . Lufthansa. Allegedly Alfredo Altavilla, president of ITA Airways,
was informed about the move.
As a forwarder you would think of MSC
as a principal operator in maritime cargo, but MSC Cruises hits the
podium of the international cruise industry and the group manages
several port terminals, too. It is a big deal indeed, no wonder. I
tried to imagine what was going on, before and behind the curtain.
In my recent article
about the demise of Alitalia it was relatively clear that the Italian
government had managed to clear the way for a new agreement by removing
the decades-old Alitalia legacy, which had always prevented any agreement
with Lufthansa in the past.
In an interview released
to Il Corriere della Sera, the largest Italian newspaper, Mr. Aponte
declared that, “We want to manage the company, otherwise we
wouldn't do this. We do not want to be a ‘sleeping partner’.
ITA Airways has an excellent management, which will remain in place.
We will be part of the board of directors, through which we will express
our ideas for the development of the group, i.e. the creation of synergies
with our business, both on the cruise side and on the freight transport
It is therefore clear
that Mr. Aponte has not thought about taking ITA over just in order
to feed passengers into the ports where his cruise ships are docking,
in Italy or abroad. If that were the plan, it would be a pity. There
are many, many other synergies that one could think of in the integration
of air and maritime services both in passengers and cargo. I am confident
this is just another example of Mr. Aponte’s legendary acumen:
many of MSC’s customers need air freight services as well as
maritime cargo slots, if the ashes of Alitalia cargo can be resurrected
within ITA, the alliance with LH will become strategic.
is where the importance of acronyms comes to glare with a new light:
Luft means air and Hansa is essentially a guild of merchants in a
German medieval town. What did these merchants do in the Middle Ages?
They were trying to trade with Italy and, principally, Genoa, Venice,
Florence and Rome. America had not been “discovered” yet
and the principal trade routes were in the Mediterranean. Actually
the acronym Mediterranean Shipping Company needs no further explanation
and I T & A are obviously the first three letters of the word
Italy, as well as part of the AlITAlia brand, but the abbreviation
also suggests “Invitation To Apply”: well, that was probably
what the Italian government was unwittingly thinking and Mr. Aponte
decided to accept. So long as Lufthansa understands that this time
they are dealing with something that they cannot think of controlling,
and if they are available to provide expertise in return for decent
revenues, I think the marriage can work.
prejudice, and with great respect for the exceptional nature of this
deal, I offer these comments.