Quebec real estate developer Group Mach Inc. has made a takeover bid for Transat AT Inc. worth $14 per share or $527.6 million in cash, seeking to cut off Air Canada's ongoing talks with the tour operator and convince the Quebec government to finance nearly one-quarter of the purchase.
The offer comes after Transat announced last month it was in exclusive 30-day negotiations to be acquired by Air Canada for $13 per share or about $520 million.
Trading in Transat shares has halted ahead of the announcement. The shares closed at $11.84 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday.
Mach said the offer is the culmination of a process that began when it approached Transat in January.
It said the transaction would be subject to conditions that include "Transat terminating its current process with Air Canada prior to entering into any definitive binding acquisition agreement with Air Canada."
Under its offer, Mach committed to keep Transat's head office, executive team and centre of decision-making in Montreal – all essential if it hopes to get the $120 million in financing it seeks from Quebec.
The Montreal developer said in a release that no layoffs at Transat or its subsidiaries would result from the would-be deal.
"The public markets are not the proper setting for Transat's 2018-2022 strategic plan, particularly its hotel development strategy which shall require several years for any meaningful returns to be realized in face of pressures of immediate results from the public markets," Mach said in a release.
Spanish real estate developer TM Grupo Inmobiliario would contribute about $15 million in cash in exchange for a minority equity stake in Transat after the proposed agreement closed, Mach said. TM would also roll over its three hotels in Mexico to Transat, according to Mach.
Transat offers vacation packages, hotel stays and air travel under the Transat and Air Transat brands, launching a $750-million plan in 2017 to develop a hotel chain in Mexico and the Caribbean.
Industry observers previously cast doubt on whether another bidder would upset the proposed merger between Air Canada and Transat. Requisite reviews by federal transport and competition regulators were equally unlikely to derail the process, analysts said.
They also said consumers would likely see little change in their travel choices or ticket prices if Canada's biggest airline buys Transat, whose airline unit was co-founded in 1986 by current Premier Francois Legault.