Player three has entered the game. The proposed merger between Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines faced its greatest challenge this week – not from regulators, investors, or employees, but from a competing offer from JetBlue Airways.
JetBlue has been searching for a merger partner since Alaska Airlines won its last bidding war in 2016 for Virgin America. The carrier is trying again by entering the bidding for Spirit with its offer to acquire the ultra-low-cost carrier for $3.6 billion in cash. Barely two months old, the original Frontier bid offered a premium of 19% to Spirit’s shareholders, yet was handily eclipsed by JetBlue’s 57% premium offered over the share price as of the April 5 announcement.
The unexpected bid by JetBlue throws the proposed merger between Frontier and Spirit into doubt by offering 40% more for the airline. While the premiums offered will be to the benefit of the shareholders, the magnitude of JetBlue’s new offer likely dwarfs any concerns by Spirit shareholders on the viability of a merger as its future. In short, JetBlue may have just made an offer Spirit can’t refuse.
The impressive price bid by JetBlue also brings doubts about whether Frontier will consider a counter offer, officially launching a bidding war for Spirit. This leaves the industry to consider the new likelihood that JetBlue will acquire Spirit Airlines, changing the U.S. airline competitive landscape.
Less than 24 hours since JetBlue entered the fray, this latest TAC Analysis dives into the new U.S. landscape to identify the potential winners and losers of a JetBlue/Spirit tie-up. As we evaluate this new move on the chessboard, new possibilities are considered, and the remaining question is revealed: What in the world is JetBlue thinking?
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