EasyJet still interested in Alitalia’s short-haul business

EasyJet has submitted an expression of interest for Alitalia. (AFP)
Updated 06 September 2018
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EasyJet still interested in Alitalia’s short-haul business

  • EasyJet, Germany’s Lufthansa and fellow budget carrier Wizz Air submitted expressions of interest this year for Alitalia or parts of its business
  • EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said that any deal had to be strategic, had to be something the firm could handle operationally and had to make commercial sense

LONDON: EasyJet is still talking to the Italian government over Alitalia’s short-haul operations but the head of the budget airline stressed on Thursday that any deal needs to make commercial sense.
EasyJet, Germany’s Lufthansa and fellow budget carrier Wizz Air submitted expressions of interest this year for Alitalia or parts of its business, but the lengthy formation of a new anti-establishment government delayed the process.
EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said that any deal had to be strategic, had to be something the firm could handle operationally and had to make commercial sense.
“Those are the things we are looking for and those are the discussions we are having. And sometimes the discussions are progressing faster and sometimes they are progressing a little bit slower,” he said at the Aviation Festival industry event.
Earlier on Thursday easyJet also said Singapore Airlines was joining “Worldwide by easyJet,” a service it launched last year to offer long-haul destinations without the need for costly and complex interline and codeshare agreements.
Closer to home, Lundgren said that he had been reassured by both Brussels and London that at least a basic agreement would be in place to enable flights to continue after Brexit next March.
Alitalia, a symbol of Italy’s post-war economic boom but now struggling to compete against low-cost carriers and high-speed trains, was put under special administration last year.
Italy’s previous government initiated a sale process, but the country’s new administration wants the majority of the loss-making carrier under state control.
Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli said in July there was a need for 51 percent of Alitalia to be kept in Italian hands “but with a strong investor next to it.”
However, the state-appointed commissioners who are running Alitalia said last month that three offers they had received were not appropriate, and they had not entered exclusive negotiations with any bidder.
“The government and the state would like to have a stake in there but that still leaves things open for potential other partnerships,” Lundgren told reporters. “So that’s what we are in discussions with them about.”
Under the Singapore Airline’s agreement, easyJet’s customers will be able to connect with Singapore’s flights via Milan Malpensa and with Singapore’s low-cost subsidiary Scoot via Berlin Tegel later this year.
Lundgren said 10 airlines, including Norwegian and WestJet, were now partners in the program, and he was in talks with other carriers to join.
He also said easyJet was working on contingency plans to cope with Brexit and it wanted clarity on Britain’s future trading relationship with the European Union.
“We know regardless of what’s going to happen in terms of deal or no deal that there will be a bare bones agreement in place,” he said.
“That’s very clearly confirmed to us in the discussions we had both from Brussels but also from Westminster. It would be inconceivable there would be no flying between UK and mainland Europe.”


Singapore luxury apartment sales surge to 11-year high

Updated 20 September 2019

Singapore luxury apartment sales surge to 11-year high

  • Sales of such apartments also exceeded the numbers racked up for each full year from 2011 to 2018, the consultants’ analysis of transaction data shows

SINGAPORE: Sales of Singapore apartments worth at least S$10 million ($7.3 million) have hit an 11-year high, fueled by increased demand from Chinese millionaires seeking safe-haven assets, say property consultants OrangeTee & Tie.

Investors have long viewed Singapore as an island of stability that attracts the super-rich from its less developed Southeast Asian neighbors, as well as multimillionaires from mainland China.

In the first eight months of 2019, 68 condominium units in the wealthy Asian city-state were sold for S$10 million and more, the highest tally since the corresponding period of 2008.

Sales of such apartments also exceeded the numbers racked up for each full year from 2011 to 2018, the consultants’ analysis of transaction data shows.

Some buyers may have sought an alternative to rival financial hub Hong Kong, hit by protests, while others may have shifted funds from China after its yuan currency was devalued in a trade war with the US, an OrangeTee expert said.

“This may explain why we have observed more foreign buyers, especially mainland Chinese, coming into Singapore lately,” said Christine Sun, its head of research and consultancy.

Mainland Chinese are the biggest group of foreign buyers of Singapore luxury homes.

In Singapore’s prime districts, Chinese citizens bought 76 apartments worth more than S$5 million from January to August, versus 75 purchases by Singaporeans, data until Sept. 19 show.

Expensive apartments in premium neighborhoods are mainly bought by foreigners, because at such high prices Singaporeans have the option to buy landed property, such as bungalows and mansions.

Singapore does not allow foreigners to buy landed homes, except for those on the resort island of Sentosa.

“We do see that even though the stamp duties have increased .... we are still seeing people putting big money on these apartments, predominantly it is more for stability than anything else,” said Boon Hoe Leong, chief operating officer of high-end realtor List Sotheby’s International Realty.

He was referring to measures Singapore adopted last year to cool its real estate market, such as hiking additional stamp duties for foreign buyers to 20 percent from 15 percent.

“They are parking their money here — they know that the Sing dollar won’t depreciate overnight,” he added.