Nothing Left To SAVE: Spirit Plummets After JetBlue Terminates Acquisition As Bankruptcy Looms

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Mar 04, 2024 - 02:10 PM

Several weeks ago, when retail momentum chasers were hot in pursuit of the latest hot tip from Dave Portnoy...

... we warned that not only was the doomed Jetblue transaction - which a Judge blocked on anti-trust grounds back on Jan 16 - not salvageable....

... but that a standalone Spirit - with the hilariously ironic ticker SAVE - was guaranteed to promptly file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy courtesy of record high debt fast approaching $7 billion, coupled with record cash burn.

Well, moments ago all of that fell into place when as we warned, JetBlue Airways, which had been facing pressure from Carl Icahn to return to sustainable growth, formally terminated its acquisition of Spirit Airlines more than a month after a federal judge blocked the $3.8 billion acquisition.

The carriers reached an agreement to walk away after determining that terms of the pact, including “receiving necessary legal and regulatory approvals, were unlikely to be met” by dates specified in the deal, JetBlue said Monday in a statement. Jetblue will be happy to walkaway from the catastrophic purchase by only paying Spirit the $69 million termination fee which should cover cash burn for at least a few weeks, and which resolves all outstanding matters related to the deal. Spirit confirmed the news in a separate statement.

“We concluded that current regulatory obstacles will not permit us to close this transaction in a timely fashion under the merger agreement,” said Spirit Chief Executive Officer Ted Christie.

The highly anticipated - except by a bunch of retail momo chasers - decision ends JetBlue’s lengthy quest for Spirit and marks a sharp reversal after the companies pledged to fight for the tie-up. JetBlue had hoped to accelerate its growth with a quick infusion of Spirit’s planes and pilots at a time when both are in short supply.

As Bloomberg notes, it wasn’t immediately clear whether Icahn’s presence influenced the decision to drop the appeal but we can safely assume it was not insubstantial. In the weeks since the deal was blocked, Icahn revealed a roughly 10% stake, making him one of JetBlue’s largest shareholders. The carrier shortly thereafter gave the investor a pair of board seats, heading off a proxy fight.

The market reaction spoke volume: JetBlue shares surged 6.3% while Spirit stock plunged more than 15% after it was unhalted, and was last seen trading around $5.40. It has about $5.40 more to drop before this particular story ends...

... the same way every other Biden admin intervention ends: with thousands of people unemployed