Swiss liner giant Mediterranean Shipping Co (MSC) has reportedly told Italian authorities that it is no longer interested in investing in ITA Airways as part of a planned privatisation.

In a short statement, MSC said it did not now see the right conditions for a deal in the current process, reported Reuters.

The Soren Toft-led shipowner had partnered with German airline Lufthansa earlier this year to bid for a stake in the Italian airline — the successor to Alitalia.

The world’s largest container ship owner had initially seen an investment as a way of expanding beyond its cruise and container shipping business.

MSC had said the deal would help it expand into air cargo — a sector that has thrived during the pandemic. It announced in September that it was leasing four Boeing wide-body freighters as part of a move into that sector.

A Lufthansa spokesman recently said it was still interested in buying into ITA despite reports that MSC had pulled out, reported Reuters.

In August, Italy picked a group led by US private equity fund Certares, backed by Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines, for exclusive talks on buying a majority stake in ITA Airways.

However, the exclusivity period expired in October with no deal reached, re-opening the door on a rival bid presented by Lufthansa and MSC.

MSC has been looking to new horizons to deploy its pile of cash earned in the container shipping boom of the past two years.

In August 2022, MSC was part of a consortium that launched a £3.7bn ($4.5bn) takeover bid for London-listed private hospital group Mediclinic.

The bid is being led by Remgro, the investment vehicle of South Africa’s richest man, Johann Rupert.

MSC president Diego Aponte said at the time that the liner giant was “very well placed to provide long-term capital, as well as our insight and experience from operating a global business in order to support the strategic ambitions of the Mediclinic management team”.

In April this year, MSC agreed to buy the African transport and logistics business of Bollore for €5.7bn ($6bn), including debt, after acquiring a stake in Italian ferry operator Moby in March.