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Apr 30, 2019

Transat surges after disclosing sale talks with multiple suitors

Transat surges after disclosing sale talks with multiple parties

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Shares of Transat A.T. Inc. (TRZ.TO) soared after the Montreal-based travel company announced Tuesday it is in preliminary talks with more than one party on a possible sale of the firm.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, shares of the parent company of Air Transat surged more than 43 per cent, or $2.44, at $8.11 in midday trading. Shares reached a high of $8.85, which was still short of its 52-week high.

Transat said before its annual meeting that the discussions are a result of “expressions of interest” it has received.

The company has formed a special committee of independent directors to evaluate proposals with the assistance of financial and legal advisors.

"I want to reiterate that the discussions are at a preliminary stage and no decision has been made on a potential transaction," Transat Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Jean-Marc Eustache told shareholders at the beginning of the meeting.

Last month, Eustache dismissed the possibility of selling off the airline unit as the company faces rising competition and higher costs. 

"I know it's not for me," Eustache said in response to an analyst's question during a conference call in March. "You need the airline to bring the customers to the hotel business, especially at the beginning."

Transat has embarked on a financial turnaround and plans to build a network of hotels on sun destination beaches in the hope this will better position it in the face of increased competition from Canadian rivals such as Air Canada Rouge, WestJet Vacations and Sunwing Airlines.

Air Transat was founded 33 years ago by a group of businessmen, including Eustache and current Quebec Premier Francois Legault, who left the company in 1997 before making the leap into politics.

The main shareholder of the tour operator is Letko, Brosseau and Associates with a stake of 18.14 per cent and the Quebec Federation of Labour's Solidarity Fund with 11.58 per cent. The Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec holds a 5.84 per cent interest in the company.

Transat offers vacation packages, hotel accommodation and air travel under its Transat and Air Transat brands. It employs more than 5,000 people.

With files from The Canadian Press