Spirit postpones vote on Frontier deal to continue talks with Frontier and JetBlue

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July 7 (Reuters) – Spirit Airlines Inc (SAVE.N) said it had a shareholder vote scheduled for Friday on the $2.4 billion sale to Frontier Group Holdings Inc. has postponed (ULCC.O) so that the board can continue discussions with both Frontier and JetBlue Airways.

Reuters first reported the planned delay.

Over the past few months, JetBlue and Frontier, led by influential airline investor Bill Franke, have repeatedly increased their bids on Spirit, aiming to create the fifth largest U.S. airline.

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Spirit’s shareholder vote, which has been postponed twice before, is being pushed back for a third time to give Spirit and JetBlue time to close a deal, sources told Reuters, asking for anonymity as the discussions are confidential. to be.

Spirit said it now plans to hold a special meeting on July 15.

JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in a statement that the airline was “encouraged by our discussions with Spirit and we hope they now recognize that Spirit shareholders have expressed their clear, overwhelming preference for an agreement with JetBlue.”

JetBlue submitted a sweetened offer of $3.7 billion in cash last month, but Spirit was reluctant to accept JetBlue’s much more financially attractive offer due to concerns that antitrust regulators could reject it, the sources say.

JetBlue is already facing a lawsuit from the US Department of Justice over its partnership with American Airlines (AAL.O) in the New York and Boston areas.

There is no assurance that JetBlue Spirit will provide the necessary regulatory guarantees to reach a deal and Frontier, which has already improved its offering, may come back with another bid, the sources added.

The Frontier deal is also expected to undergo antitrust scrutiny. But Spirit and some analysts say the deal has a better chance of getting a nod from regulators.

Both bidders see Spirit as an opportunity to expand their domestic footprint and reshape the U.S. airline industry, which is largely dominated by four domestic airlines. A takeover by either bidder would come at a time when the industry is currently grappling with labor and aircraft shortages.

Last week, Spirit was forced to postpone the shareholder vote until July 8. The sources said it did not have enough shareholders at the time to support the Frontier deal.

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Reporting by Anirban Sen and Svea Herbst-Bayliss in New York and David Shepardson in Washington; additional reporting by Rajesh Kumar Singh; Editing by Greg Roumeliotis, Bill Berkrot and Edwina Gibbs

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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