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Dnata CEO confident of victory in Rome airport case

Dnata staff load cargo into a plane at Cointrin Airport in Geneva. The company's expansion into Rome will need a €20 million investment Reuters/Denis Balibouse
Dnata staff load cargo into a plane at Cointrin Airport in Geneva. The company's expansion into Rome will need a €20 million investment
  • Emirates unit waits on appeal ruling
  • In talks with Italy’s ITA Airways
  • Dnata 2023 profit reached $400m

The group CEO of Dnata, the Dubai-based global air and travel services provider, is “very confident” the company will soon begin operations in Rome.

“We’re certainly planning to be operating this year,” Steve Allen told AGBI at a media event on Tuesday, referring to an appeal ruling on the decision to award ground-handling contracts due to be announced this month.

Airport Handling, a majority-owned subsidiary of Dnata, was awarded one of three seven-year ground handling licenses at Rome Fiumicino Airport (FCO) by Aeroporti di Roma in October last year.

However, current incumbent Swissport has appealed the move and a decision is imminent.

Airport Handling already caters for more than 22 million passengers and 82,000 flights at the two Milan airports, Malpensa and Linate.

Allen said the expansion into Rome would involve a €20 million ($21.6 million) investment by the company in ground support equipment, with the potential to employ 1,800 workers at the airport.

Airport Handling is in the process of bidding for contracts with respective airlines to take care of their ground handling operations at FCO and is in talks with major Italian flag carrier ITA Airways, which has its base in Rome.

“If that comes then we’ll have to invest more in terms of equipment,” said Allen.

Dnata, which is part of the Dubai government-owned Emirates Group, on Monday reported a profit of $400 million for 2023, up from $90 million the previous year. Revenue increased 29 percent to hit a new record of $5.2 billion.

Dnata handles almost 800,000 flights globally every year and operates in 132 countries.

This includes Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where a new €40 million cargo facility is due to open in July 2025. A similar facility will open in Irbil, Iraq, later this year.

Allen revealed that further expansion opportunities for 2024 existed in South America, the Far East and the Middle East.

“There’s plenty of room for organic expansion, but also some consolidation,” Allen said.

He explained that Dnata is weighing up as many as 40 opportunities within its expansion and acquisition pipeline and hoped this would result in “three to five” concrete moves this year, predominantly in the ground cargo handling sector.

“We feel in a very strong position to continue our investment and our growth,” he said.

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