Quebecor CEO dangles offer for Transat if Air Canada deal can't take off

An Air Transat plane is seen as an Air Canada plane lands at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal on May 16, 2019. Air Canada says it will spend more to buy Transat A.T., upping its total offer by $200 million and winning the support of the tour company's largest shareholder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL - The head of Quebec telecommunications giant Quebecor Inc. is dangling a potential offer for Transat A.T. if the tour operator's shareholders or regulatory authorities block Air Canada's $720-million offer.

Pierre Karl Peladeau, who says he owns about 1.6 per cent of the outstanding shares of Air Transat's parent company, says he plans to vote against the $18 per share offer by Canada's largest airline, saying it is "contrary to the public interest."

A vote Friday must secure the support from at least two-thirds of Transat shareholders.

Peladeau says in a news release that the deal goes against "the best interests of (Transat AT), its employees, Quebec consumers and the Quebec economy" since Air Canada would control 60 per cent of the market, an unacceptably high level that would hurt competition.

The businessman and former politician says he has "gathered around him strong and established partners of international renown" in order to submit a possible proposal he says would be fair, without mentioning a price.

Transat's largest shareholder with a 19.3 per cent stake, Letko, Brosseau and Associates, says it would support Air Canada's offer, after earlier rejecting it when the bid was $13 per share.

Air Canada addressed Peladeau's comments by noting in a news release that the headquarters and main operations of Transat will remain in Montreal, the brands Air Transat and Transat will be maintained and the combination will provide employees of both companies greater job security through increased prospects for growth.

"Contrary to what Mr. Peladeau says, who himself tried to structure an unsuccessful offer, the transaction with Air Canada is advantageous and in the best interest not only of the two companies, but also of their employees, Quebec consumers and the Quebec economy," it stated.

Companies in this story: (TSX:TRZ, TSX:AC, TSX:QBR.B).

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