General aviation

Air Canada reiterates Transat deal as competing offer emerges

While it is clear Air Transat is for sale, conflicting signals emerged Tuesday over who the company’s new suitor would be. Air Canada reaffirmed its commitment to buying the company after a competing offer was made public.

The two airlines announced May 16th they had entered a 30-day exclusive period with an eye on Air Canada buying Transat.

“Air Canada today said that it is in the process of finalizing its binding agreement to purchase all of the issued and outstanding shares of Transat AT Inc,” the company said in a news release. Details were expected to be finalized by the end of June.

But Tuesday morning, independent real estate developer Group Mach set the cat among the pigeons by revealing details of its own bid for Transat in a deal the company said was worth more than $1 billion.

Mach relied heavily on its Quebec credentials in its bid, stressing that head office staff would “truly” be based in Montreal, a veiled shot at Air Canada whose head office is in Montreal, but whose senior staff spend a significant amount of time in Toronto.

“Mach is committed to reassure the Quebec Government that Quebec’s interests are truly protected,” the developer said in a news release.

Mach’s proposal would require $120 million in financing from the Quebec government, and would give the government guarantees around jobs and a veto on future company sales.

Mach said it started talks with Transat in January in the hopes of buying the company.

The group hopes to profit from its real estate expertise to build on Transat’s business model of both owning resort locations in holiday destinations, and the airplanes to fly people there. Its proposal would more than double the number of hotel rooms owned and managed by Transat.

Mach’s proposal includes a $15 million stake from Spanish leisure developer TM Grupo Inmobiliario, which is also throwing in three hotels in Mexico to sweeten the deal.

Mach also proposed taking Transat private, stressing “The public markets are not the proper setting for Transat’s 2018-2022 strategic plan, particularly its hotel development strategy which shall require several years for any meaningful returns to be realized in face of pressures of immediate results from the public markets.”

Transat acknowledged the offer Tuesday, and reiterated its exclusivity agreement with Air Canada, while saying “There is no assurance that a definitive agreement will be reached in relation to any proposed transaction.”

Mach’s proposal calls on Transat’s board to end the talks with Air Canada and enter a 30-day exclusive deal “in the best long-term interests of the Company.”

“The transaction, valued at $520 million,” cautioned Air Canada, “remains subject to the finalization of definitive agreements, confirmatory due diligence, regulatory and shareholder approvals and other closing conditions usual in this type of transaction. There is no assurance that the transaction will be completed as described in this news release or at all.”

Any proposal would go to Canada’s Transport Minister for final approval.

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