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Onex Corporation has signed a deal to buy WestJet Airlines Ltd. for approximately $5 billion and plans to operate it as a privately-held company following the conclusion of the transaction, it was announced today.
Under the terms of the cash deal, Onex will acquire all outstanding WestJet shares for $31 per share, which represents a 67 per cent premium to Friday’s closing share price.
“Since our first flight in 1996, WestJet has been singularly focused on providing better options for the Canadian travelling public and this transaction retains that commitment,” said Clive Beddoe, WestJet’s founder and chairman. “I am particularly pleased that WestJet will remain headquartered in Calgary and will continue to build on the success that our 14,000 WestJetters have created. Onex’s aerospace experience, history of positive employee relations and long-term orientation make it an ideal partner for WestJetters, and I am excited about our future.”
Onex initially approached the Calgary-based airline in March 2019 with its offer, which was subsequently evaluated and unanimously approved by a special committee of independent WestJet directors. The airline’s board of directors is recommending that WestJet shareholders vote in favour of the transaction at an upcoming special meeting targeted for July.
Ed Sims, WestJet’s president and CEO, said, “We are delighted to continue the journey of building an airline based on a growing network, providing competitive airfares and more choice to, from and within Canada, for communities large and small. Integral to this relationship is a commitment to our employees, and our unique ownership-driven culture.”
“WestJet is one of Canada’s strongest brands and we have tremendous respect for the business that Clive Beddoe and all WestJetters have built over the years. WestJet is renowned internationally for its unparalleled guest experience and employee culture. We’re thrilled to be partnering with WestJetters and continuing this remarkable Canadian success story,” said Tawfiq Popatia, a managing director at Onex.
Founded in 1984 and headquartered in Canada, Onex manages and invests capital in its private equity and credit platforms on behalf of investors from around the world. In total, Onex has US$31 billion of assets under management, including US$6.6 billion of shareholder capital.
The WestJet transaction will be led by Onex Partners, Onex’s private equity platform focused on larger investment opportunities. In the aerospace sector, Onex Partners also owns AIT – Advanced Integration Technology, BBAM Aircraft Leasing and Management, and Survitec, which makes aerospace survival equipment.
Completion of the WestJet deal is subject to a number of conditions, including court and shareholder approval and receipt of certain regulatory approvals, including approval under the Canada Transportation Act. The Minister of Transport will assess the deal in the context of the public interest as it relates to national transportation.
Pending regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to close in the latter part of 2019 or early 2020.