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Transat still negotiating takeover with Air Canada, as rival bidder says counteroffer is coming

Transat still negotiating takeover with Air Canada, as rival bidder says counteroffer is coming

A Quebec developer seeking to outbid Air Canada with a takeover proposal for Transat AT Inc. says he will hand a formal offer to the tour operator before Transat’s exclusive talks with Air Canada end on June 26.

“We will file one, because they’e asking for one,” Group Mach Inc. chief executive Vincent Chiara told The Canadian Press. “We don’t have any obligation toward Air Canada to respect an agreement.”

Transat began exclusive talks with Air Canada on May 27 after the country’s largest airline made a bid of $13 per share or about $520 million.

Last week Mach announced in a press release a higher offer of $14 per share or $527.6-million, which includes trying to convince the Quebec government to finance nearly one-quarter of the purchase.

Transat chief financial officer Denis Petrin said the company has “taken note of the press release” but has not received a formal proposal.

“Should any further acquisition proposal be communicated to the company before or after the end of the exclusivity period, it will be addressed by our board of directors in consideration of their duties and obviously the agreement with Air Canada,” Petrin said on a conference call with investors Thursday.

Under its offer, Mach committed to keep Transat’s head office, executive team and decision-making hub in Montreal — all essential, it said, if the Montreal developer hopes to get the $120 million in financing it seeks from Quebec.

Chiara, who told The Canadian Press he aims to continue Transat’s current business operations — with no layoffs or selloffs planned — said Thursday he spoke with Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon since his initial expression of interest June 4.