JetBlue makes cash bid to buy Spirit Airlines for $3.6B

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JetBlue Airways has made an unsolicited all-cash offer to acquire Spirit Airlines for a little more than $3.5 billion, two months after the Miramar-based company said that it would be merging with discount airline rival Frontier.

JetBlue’s bid is worth $33 per share of Spirit’s stock, the Broward County airline said in a statement late Tuesday, which would make the offer roughly $3.6 billion. That cash bid is about a 40% premium over Frontier’s $2.9 billion cash-and-stock offer for Spirit, which has a value of about $23 a share based on the current price of Frontier’s stock at $11.92 per share.

Since early February when Spirit and Frontier announced their intention to merge, Frontier’s stock price has fallen from $12.82 a share. At the end of trading Tuesday after JetBlue’s offer emerged, Spirit’s stock jumped 22% to close at $26.91 a share.

Although JetBlue’s offer came as a surprise to Spirit, the airline’s board will consider it but there’s no deadline to move forward with either bidder. Meanwhile, the effects of a Spirit sale or merger on the airlines 3,400 South Florida employees and customer airfares in the region remain hanging in the balance. Ultimately, federal regulators would have to approve any deal Spirit and an airline partner agreed upon and that evaluation would take at least 18 to 24 months.