The sale of Alitalia has been delayed until April despite seven offers being tabled for the carrier by this week’s deadline, including bids from Lufthansa and easyJet.

The Italian government pushed back the sale amid speculation that it aims to avoid Alitalia becoming an issue in a general election now expected next March.

Alitalia went into bankruptcy protection in May and is in the hands of government-appointed administrators.

In a statement, Italy’s economic development ministry blamed the delay on the “strategic dynamics” in the airline sector following the break-up of Air Berlin, the failure of Monarch and the “operational crisis” at Ryanair.

Lufthansa Group confirmed it had submitted an offer for the Italian carrier, but said it was interested in “only parts” of Alitalia’s “global network and European and domestic point-to-point business”.

The German carrier said it proposes establishing a ‘New Alitalia’.

Lufthansa acquired more than half the fleet of bankrupt German rival Air Berlin last week in a €210 million deal.

Both Alitalia and Air Berlin went into administration after leading shareholder Etihad withdrew support.

EasyJet also confirmed interest in parts of a restructured Alitalia.

The Italian government has agreed to provide an additional €300 million to keep Alitalia flying, taking its total provision for the carrier since May to €900 million, and extended its support to September 2018.

Administrators had originally hoped to secure a deal by November.

Ryanair withdrew from the bidding process last month to focus on resolving a crisis which led it to cancel the flights of more than 700,000 passengers between September and March.

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