Earlier this year, budget airlines Spirit and Frontier agreed to a merger that would form the United States’ fifth-largest airline. The deal, while still early in its process, seemed ready to go — until JetBlue stepped in to try and stop it. Now, JetBlue is trying to buy Spirit right out of Frontier’s hands, and it’s looking to pay a healthy premium to do so.
Spirit Airlines stock is trading at $18.99 per share as of this writing, but JetBlue is offering $30 per share in its buyout bid. At the same time, JetBlue is speaking directly to Spirit’s shareholders, asking them to vote against the Frontier merger in favor of a JetBlue buyout. From CNN:
JetBlue said in a statement Monday that its offer represented a “60% premium to the value of the Frontier transaction.” The airline added that it was willing to negotiate a $33-per-share deal if Spirit agrees to provide information about its business that JetBlue claims has been withheld.
“The Spirit Board failed to provide us the necessary diligence information it had provided Frontier and then summarily rejected our proposal, which addressed its regulatory concerns, without asking us even a single question about it,” JetBlue said in a letter addressed to Spirit shareholders. “The Spirit Board based its rejection on unsupportable claims that are easily refuted.”
JetBlue has been embroiled in antitrust litigation recently surrounding its partnership with American Airlines, which allows customers to cross-book on either airline for flights to and from major Northeast U.S. airports. What’s more, it’s not currently clear whether regulators would even allow JetBlue and Spirit to merge. Still, the company seems dead-set on making a purchase — and preventing Frontier from doing the same.
While this fighting between Spirit, Frontier, and JetBlue may not come to a resolution for some time, each party seems committed to seeing its side through to the bitter end. Personally, if I were a Spirit shareholder, I’d back whichever buyer promises better seats in the planes.