Canadian agency mandates Onex to meet ownership rules on WestJet deal

FILE PHOTO: WestJet airline signage is pictured at Vancouver's international airport in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Nelms

(Reuters) - The Canadian Transportation Agency said on Tuesday Onex Corp ONEX.TO will need to amend its by-laws to meet the country's ownership rules related to its proposed C$3.5 billion buyout deal of Canada's second-largest carrier WestJet Airlines WJA.TO.

The agency has sought the amendment to Onex’s by-laws to ensure that matters related to WestJet are voted where a majority of Canadian directors are present.

WestJet said it is in the process of reviewing the determination.

Air Canada AC.TO had challenged Onex Corp's proposed acquisition of WestJet Airlines, on grounds that the deal may not meet the country's ownership rules. (

Air Canada had argued that the likely presence of Onex co-investors such as foreign wealth funds and carriers, and “the opaque nature” of the deal to buy WestJet through company subsidiary Kestrel Bidco, will make it harder to ensure compliance with ownership laws.

Under Canada’s Transportation Act, carriers must be Canadian and controlled by Canadians in order to hold a domestic license.

Shareholders of WestJet Airlines in July voted in favor of the Onex deal.

Under Canadian rules, foreigners cannot own more than 49% equity in a Canadian airline. The rules further restrict a foreign airline and any single foreign owner from controlling more than a quarter of voting interests in a Canadian carrier.

Onex did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

Reporting by Arundhati Sarkar in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Uttaresh.V