The Government of Italy is set to enter negotiations with a consortium led by US private equity fund Certares for the sale of a majority stake in ITA Airways, the state-owned flag carrier of Italy, Reuters reported.

The consortium, which also includes Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines, outbid shipping group MSC and Germany’s Lufthansa.

Although details of the proposal by the Certares-led consortium were not revealed, one of the three people familiar with the development told the news agency that it would allow the government to retain a stake of at least 40% in ITA.

Certares is said to have placed a €600m bid for a stake of about 60%, however two of the sources said the deal value could be more than that.

The sources added that Rome’s main Fiumicino airport would be at the centre of the industrial plan offered by Certares.

In a statement, Air France-KLM said: “Air France-KLM at this stage is not investing in ITA’s capital structure. However, Air France-KLM Group could consider in the medium term to take a minority stake in ITA.

“Air France-KLM has a longstanding relationship with ITA and previously with Alitalia. Together with its Joint Venture partner Delta Air Lines, Air France-KLM looks forward to fostering closer ties with ITA and building upon the existing commercial partnership the airlines have formed, in particular through the implementation of codeshare agreements and ITA’s entry into the SkyTeam alliance, of which Air France-KLM and Delta are founding members.”

Air France-KLM has backed the move and would initially serve as the commercial and operational partner for Certares.

However, a separate source noted that MSC and Lufthansa placed their offer ranging between €850m to €900m for an 80% holding.