MSC has expanded its airfreight division with the acquisition of a majority stake in Italian all-cargo carrier AlisCargo Airlines.

Italian media began reporting a sale was due on Thursday, saying it would be finalised once Italian regulators cleared AlisCargo to restart services – it requested a licence suspension late last year.

Air cargo SVP at MSC Jannie Davel said: “The acquisition of a majority share in AlisCargo Airlines is a step towards expanding MSC’s air cargo solution capabilities.

“It will ultimately provide our customers with a quality and consistent offering. I am equally proud we have found a partner that shares a common vision and has built a strong foundation, which we hope to develop.”

While the percentage acquired has not been made public, MSC said it intended to take full ownership early next year.

AlisCargo began operating at the height of the pandemic with two ‘preighter’ 777s, but was forced to suspend operations after the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (EASA) last August lifted the exemption that allowed airlines to put cargo in aircraft cabins. The carrier asked EASA to suspend its operating licence, while it awaited the arrival of freighters, said to be two 767s.

One source told The Loadstar that AlisCargo management had told its top clients “everything is okay”, but said there remained question marks over how cashflow would continue without any activities, particularly given it had more than 30 staff on its books.

According to MSC, those two 767s are 777Fs which, once delivered, will allow AlisCargo to recommence operations.

Giacomo Manzon, general manager of AlisCargo, said: “I am proud to see a group like MSC entering as a major shareholder and developing the project Leali Group has initiated.”

AlisCargo’s 777 will add to the capacity MSC already offers: two Atlas Worldwide-managed freighters, with a further two due within the next six months.

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