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Lufthansa says hopeful of finalising ITA deal in days

FILE PHOTO: Strike called by the German trade union Verdi in Frankfurt

By Aditi Shah

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Lufthansa is hopeful of finalising the partial takeover of Italy's state-owned ITA Airways within days, an executive at the German carrier said on Thursday, describing talks with the Italian government as "very good."

The two airlines agree on how to work together to win market share, Harry Hohmeister, head of global markets and network, Lufthansa Group Airlines, said at a New Delhi press conference to announce new flights to India.

"We will start with most probably some minority share and all the rest is still under negotiation," he said, declining to give details but adding there was hope of a decision over the next few days.

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ITA has worked out the main elements of the deal and hopes to announce it soon, the Italian airline's chairman said last week.

Sources have previously said the German carrier is negotiating with Rome over buying a 40% stake in ITA, worth around 200 million euros ($218.82 million), with the idea of buying the rest later.

"A successful partnership with an airline always comes from good cooperation on sales, capacity management, designing the right network, having the right prices in the market," Hohmeister said. "I think ultimately we will win market share."

The deal with ITA is expected to help Lufthansa win more fliers from India, the world's fastest-growing aviation market where the German carrier is expanding as air travel rebounds strongly. Italy is a popular destination for Indian tourists and ITA already operates some nonstop Italy-India flights.

Lufthansa said earlier on Thursday it would soon launch flights between Germany and the southern Indian cities of Bengaluru and Hyderabad.

Lufthansa is adding service to India as Tata Group-owned Air India plans aggressive growth with non-stop flights to Europe and the U.S., and budget carrier IndiGo widens its global network through codeshare partner Turkish Airlines.

"We are taking it very seriously that India is on the move," Hohmeister said, but he noted that competition from Middle Eastern carriers is a bigger concern.

(Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Richard Chang)