The acquisition of Spirit Airlines by JetBlue is gaining momentum.
Spirit Airlines on Thursday said that, despite news earlier this year that it had agreed to a merger with low-cost competitor Frontier, it is planning to engage JetBlue in talks.
Spirit said that JetBlue’s offer, an “unsolicited offer” that came in at $33 per share all in cash, could reasonably be likely to lead to a “Superior Proposal” than the one that came from Frontier’s parent company Frontier Group Holdings. Spirit is still bound by its earlier agreement with Frontier, however, it said it will start to engage JetBlue in talks to explore the possibility of an acquisition by the carrier.
JetBlue’s offer is reportedly, in total, around $3.6 billion to acquire Spirit, more than the $2.9 billion cash-and-stock merger deal that was on the table with Frontier.
Even with that news, Spirit’s Board is still recommending its shareholders vote to adopt the merger with Frontier, a deal that was agreed to in February and was expected to close sometime in the second half of 2022.
Whether it's JetBlue or Frontier, an acquisition of a major U.S. air carrier by another is expected to face heavy regulatory scrutiny and pressure. Some lawmakers in the U.S. have already expressed concerns.
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in terms of domestic market share for 2021 by revenue, JetBlue was the sixth-largest carrier, Spirit the seventh, and Frontier the ninth. A combination of either Frontier and Spirit or JetBlue and Spirit would create an airline that ranks fifth overall in terms of market share, still below the U.S.’s “Big Four” carriers—American, Southwest, Delta, and United—but above Alaska Airlines.