JetBlue launches hostile takeover bid for Spirit Airlines

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LaGuardia International Airport Terminal A for JetBlue and Spirit Airlines in New York.
Leslie Josephs | CNBC

JetBlue Airways launched a hostile takeover bid of Spirit Airlines on Monday after that carrier turned down JetBlue’s $33 per share, all-cash offer earlier this month.

Spirit rejected the offer to stick with a planned merger with fellow discounter Frontier Airlines. JetBlue has said acquiring Spirit would give it access to a large fleet of Airbus planes, trained pilots and the ability to better compete against the “Big Four” U.S. airlines that control most of the U.S. market.

JetBlue wrote to Spirit shareholders Monday, offering $30 a share and encouraging them to vote against the Frontier deal. The company also said its earlier offer of $33 per share is still on the table if Spirit decides to negotiate. Spirit’s shares closed Friday at $16.98.

“If the Spirit shareholders vote against the transaction with Frontier and compel the Spirit Board to negotiate with us in good faith, we will work towards a consensual transaction at $33 per share, subject to receiving the information to support it,” JetBlue said.

Spirit earlier this month said it turned down JetBlue’s offer because it didn’t believe the deal would be approved by regulators. It further turned down suggested tweaks from JetBlue that might have eased regulatory concerns, including an offer to divest some of Spirit’s assets in Florida, New York and Boston. JetBlue also previously offered a reverse breakup fee.

Spirit shares were up more than 14% in premarket trading Monday, while JetBlue’s were down roughly 1%. Frontier shares were up about 3% premarket. Representatives for Spirit and Frontier didn’t immediately comment.

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