Air Canada's sweetened bid for Transat a fair offer: shareholder

(Reuters) - Air Canada's AC.TO revised C$720 million ($544 million) bid for Canadian tour operator Transat AT TRZ.TO is a fair offer and should secure investor backing for the transaction, Transat's fourth-largest shareholder said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: Two Air Canada Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircrafts are seen on the ground as Air Canada Embraer aircraft flies in the background at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

Air Canada, Canada’s largest airline, raised its offer for Transat by 38.5% to C$18.00 per share on Sunday, winning support from its largest shareholder Letko Brosseau, which holds about 19.3% of shares.

Amar Pandya, a senior investment analyst and portfolio manager for Vancouver-based PenderFund Capital Management, would not specify how the company would vote on Air Canada’s offer.

“At this price, we think it’s a fair offer,” Pandya said in a phone interview. “We think there will be support from shareholders.”

PenderFund Capital holds about 3% of shares in Transat, according to Pandya and Refinitiv data, exceeded by only three other shareholders. Air Canada needs the support of two-thirds of Transat shareholders during a meeting to be held on Aug. 23 in Montreal.

Air Canada sweetened the deal after several large shareholders, including PenderFund, balked at the initial C$13/share price. Air Canada has said it plans to use the company, which operates leisure carrier Air Transat, to grow its strong-performing leisure business and Montreal hub.

Earlier on Monday, Transat said a Canadian financial markets administrative tribunal had blocked Montreal real estate developer Groupe Mach’s offer to buy 19.5% class B voting shares of the tour operator.

Mach was aiming to block AC’s bid for Transat by acquiring the class B shares.

The new AC bid also topped an earlier competing offer from Group Mach for C$14 per share.

Transat shares were trading up 39% at C$16.41, while AC shares were down 1.2%.

Reporting by Shanti S Nair in Bengaluru and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Will Dunham