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May 13, 2019

WestJet to be bought by Onex in $5-billion deal, including debt

WestJet to be acquired by Onex

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WestJet Airlines Ltd. (WJA.TO) announced it has agreed to be acquired by private equity firm Onex Corp. (ONEX.TO) in a $5-billion deal, including debt.

The Calgary-based airline said in a release Monday that Toronto-based Onex will pay $31 per share in cash, representing a 67 per cent premium to Friday’s closing price. WestJet shares closed at $18.52 on Friday.

WestJet will operate as a privately-held company and remain headquartered in Calgary after the transaction is completed, the company said. The deal is expected to close in the latter part of 2019 or early 2020 and is subject to shareholder, court and regulatory approvals.

Shares in WestJet soared more than 60 per cent when markets opened Monday after the deal was announced.

Onex made its first takeover approach in March 2019, at which point WestJet’s board of directors formed a special committee to advise on the proposed transaction. On the committee’s advice, WestJet’s board unanimously recommends shareholders approve the transaction at the special meeting of shareholders, which is expected in July 2019.

“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, in a release.

“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 makes it an ideal partner for WestJetters, and I am excited about our future.”

WestJet flies to more than 100 destinations in North America, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe. Last year, the company launched its ultra-low-cost carrier Swoop amid a competitive budget airlines market.

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