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The ups and downs of Air Canada’s deal for Transat AT


February 12, 2021
The Canadian Press


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MONTREAL _ The federal government has approved Air Canada’s $190-million purchase of Transat A.T., with some conditions that include maintaining Transat’s head office in Quebec, launching new destinations within five years and implementing a price monitoring mechanism.

Here are some key events:

April 30, 2019: Transat shares gain more than 40 per cent after the tour and travel operator announces it is in preliminary talks to sell the company.

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May 10, 2019: As airline industry observers speculate about Air Canada and other possible buyers for Transat, a number of Quebec-based players express interest in the company. Dominik Pigeon, head of financial services company FNC Capital, says he has a group of interested investors after Montreal real estate developer Group Mach says it has submitted an offer. Pierre Karl Peladeau, president and CEO of Quebecor, says he has requested a financial analysis of the company for a personal investment.

May 16, 2019: Transat announces it is in exclusive talks with Air Canada, which offered to buy the company $13 per share or roughly $488 million. The two companies enter a 30-day negotiation period. Air Canada’s stock climbs to a record high.

June 4, 2019: Quebec real estate developer Group Mach Inc. says it will make a takeover offer for Transat worth $14 per share or $527.6 million in cash. The real estate developer was hoping the Quebec government would contribute $120 million in financing.

June 14, 2019: Group Mach formally submits its $14-per-share offer for Transat.

June 25, 2019: One day before the Transat-Air Canada exclusivity talks are set to expire, Groupe Mach announces it has reached an agreement with the Quebec government to support its rival bid, having dropped a key financing condition.

June 27, 2019: Transat’s board of directors approves Air Canada’s $520-million takeover offer. Despite the agreement, it’s unclear whether Transat shareholders will follow suit: Letko, Brosseau and Associates and PenderFund Capital Management, which jointly own a 21.1 per cent stake, had previously said they would not support a $13-per-share purchase price.

July 3, 2019: Group Mach withdraws its bid saying the tour operator chose to ignore its proposal even though it featured a higher price than Air Canada’s offer.

July 17, 2019: Unifor president Jerry Dias, head of Canada’s largest private-sector union, says in an open letter that Air Canada is employees’ best option among Transat’s suitors, citing stability.

Aug. 2, 2019: In a bid to block the Air Canada deal, Group Mach offers Transat shareholders $14 per share in an effort to scoop up a large enough stake in the company to vote the bid down.

Aug. 6, 2019: Transat fires back, warning shareholders against what it calls Group Mach’s “abusive” and “misleading” move to block the sale and says it has filed a complaint with Quebec’s securities tribunal.

Aug. 11, 2019: Air Canada increases its offer for Transat by $200 million, bringing the total to $720 million of $18 per share. The new offer comes with the backing of Transat’s largest shareholder, Letko Brosseau and Associates Inc.

Aug. 12, 2019: Quebec’s securities tribunal blocks Group Mach’s offer to buy up Transat shares.

Aug. 13, 2019: Peladeau says he plans to vote against the sweetened $18-per-share offer and hints at an alternate proposal.

Aug. 23, 2019: Transat shareholders approve Air Canada’s $720-million acquisition offer.

Aug. 26, 2019: The shareholder-approved deal will undergo a 250-day public interest assessment, then-transport minister Marc Garneau announces. Garneau added 100 days to the typical review period for the Transportation Ministry and Competition Commissioner due to the size and scope of the proposed merger.

March 14, 2020: Against a backdrop of steadily climbing cases of COVID-19 worldwide, the federal government advises travellers to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada. Airlines, including Air Canada and Air Transat, see a massive decline in the number of passengers.

March 18, 2020: Transat begins a gradual suspension of flights until April 30, while Air Canadasuspends the majority of its international flights. Like other airlines in Canada and abroad, temporary route suspensions will continue through the end of the year and beyond due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

March 27, 2020: The Competition Bureau says in a report to the transportation ministry that the proposed deal likely will hinder competition and result in less choice for Canadian travellers. It identifies 83 overlapping routes, more than half of which are between Canada and Europe. Transat’s stock ended the day trading for $8.98 _ half Air Canada’s purchase price.

March-April 2020: Air Canada and Transat temporarily lay off thousands of employees as flights slow to a near-halt.

May 25, 2020: European regulators launch an investigation into the acquisition after a preliminary review noted the deal could significantly reduce competition on 33 routes between Europe and Canada. Transat delays the deal’s completion date by a month. Its shares end the day at $7.

June 19, 2020: European Union regulators suspend their investigation pending the arrival of more data from the two companies. The investigation resumes in September.

Sept. 10, 2020: Transat reports dire quarterly results, with revenues down 99 per cent. Executives admit the Air Canada deal is no longer certain. Its share price falls below $5, more than 70 per cent below the deal price of $18.

Oct. 10, 2020: The two travel companies announce they have reached terms for a revised deal that will see Air Canada buy Transat for $5 a share or $190 million, a significant discount to the original agreement.

Dec. 15, 2020: Transat shareholders vote to accept the revised takeover offer, with 91 per cent of votes in favour of the deal.

Dec. 22, 2020: Peladeau’s investment company Gestion MTRHP Inc. submits an unsolicited proposal to Transat.

Jan. 12, 2020: Transat issues a statement reconfirming its support for the Air Canada takeover, saying the Gestion proposal is not supported by binding, fully committed financing.

Feb. 11, 2021: Government of Canada approves Air Canada’s proposed purchase of Transat. The deal is set to expire Feb. 15 unless extended.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2021