Not likely, says Elliot Fishman from Scotia Wealth, who says the Onex deal is probably the only one on the table.
Reportedly coming as a genuine surprise to insiders and industry experts alike, Canadian private equity firm Onex announced on May 13 its intended friendly takeover of WestJet, a deal that would make the airline a private company while paying shareholders $31 per share. The $3.5-billion offer represents a 67-per-cent premium to WJA’s share price before the deal was announced.
And while the stock has since risen to the low $30.00 range for the past two weeks, Fishman explains that with the deal likely going through (WestJet shareholders will be voting on the offer in a meeting scheduled for July) there is little further upside to be had.
“The only way WestJet goes higher is if there’s a white knight out there somewhere and I don’t see it,” said Fishman, director of US and International Trading at Scotia Wealth, to BNN Bloomberg on May 24. “The airline business is tough and Onex has deep pockets. The reasons it’s up like it’s up is because it’s a cash take-out and the only reason it’s not at $31 per share where it should be is that there’s a bit of a time lull.”
“So there’s a little bit of money if you want to hold it but as far as it going any higher, I don’t see it. I don’t see anybody else coming in and paying more than Onex did,” he says. “There is a little bit of talk about Air Canada and some others trying to get merged up but right now WestJet is fully valued to me.”
Onex has said it aims to keep the airline headquartered in Calgary and that it saw value in a company that started out in 1996 as a low-cost regional alternative to Air Canada but has since grown into a legitimate Number Two with international growth potential.
“WestJet is one of Canada’s strongest brands and we have tremendous respect for the business that [WestJet founder and chair] Clive Beddoe and all WestJetters have built over the years,” said Tawfiq Popatia, a managing director at Onex.
WestJet’s share price had its high point back in 2014 when it rose to almost $35, although the years since have been less favourable. By mid-2018 the stock had fallen to the $17-$20 range and had been trading sideways up until the Onex deal.