JetBlue Airways (JBLU.O) made an unsolicited $3.6 billion proposal for Spirit Airlines (SAVE.N) on Tuesday, potentially delaying the ultra-low-cost carrier’s merger with Frontier Group Holdings (ULCC.O).
JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said the transaction will give the New York-based airline a stronger rival to the so-called “legacy” US airlines, which control almost 80% of the passenger market in the United States.
In a Reuters interview late Tuesday, Hayes added, “The number one criticism we receive is why don’t you go to more destinations.” “What we want to do is build a bigger JetBlue” that will be able to service more people.
JetBlue, the sixth-largest passenger airline in the United States, would run Spirit under the JetBlue name, and he believes no divestitures are required.
The decision comes as airlines grapple with rising fuel and labor expenses, as well as a desire to entice more leisure tourists, who have returned at a quicker rate than business travelers since pandemic restrictions were eased.
JetBlue offered $33 per share in cash, which was nearly 33% greater than Frontier’s offer of 1.9126 shares and $2.13 in cash, valuing Spirit at $24.93 per share as of Tuesday’s closing price.
Spirit’s stock finished the day up 22% at $26.92, its highest level since mid-February. The 52-week high for Sprit is $39.19. Spirit shares were trading at about $45. just before COVID-19 lockdowns became prevalent.
Spirit would only say that it would consider the offer in a written statement.
According to Hayes, the US Justice Department will conduct a thorough antitrust investigation that might run until 2023.