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Experts, travellers react to sale of Calgary-based WestJet

Last Updated May 13, 2019 at 6:39 pm MDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Reaction is coming in from across Calgary after the news that WestJet was being sold to Onex.

The deal means that Onex will pay $31 a share for the airline, which is a 67-per-cent premium over Friday’s closing price.

Toronto-based Onex will make the airline a privately-held company, and keep its headquarters in Calgary.

READ MORE: Onex Corp. to buy WestJet for $5 billion

The news was a total shock to many including local aviation analyst Rick Erickson.

“I woke up to the news and it was a very, very large surprise. When you think of it, a $5 billion deal for basically a ready-made airline. Nobody else on the planet is doing this.”

Another analyst, Robert Kokonis, says he wasn’t overall surprised by the takeover.

“Something had to be done. WestJet stock prices after years of a quarter and quarter record results and the track record of profitability have all of a sudden hit hard times.”

Meanwhile, in Calgary where WestJet has called home for over a decade, many are weighing in on the sale expressing concern and uncertainty.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney also responding to the purchase, saying he heard from a Onex representative who said they bought the airline because of his tax cut plans.

“Their major investment in WestJet is partly a decision by that company, Onex, to bet on Alberta after I mentioned the job creation tax cut. So we are already seeing a capital response, investment respond, to these policy signals we are sending to create jobs,” said Kenney.

Kenney also expressed his joy that the company has no plans to lay off any employees as a result of the deal.

This isn’t the first time that Onex has attempted to purchase a Canadian airline. In 1999, Onex founder Gerry Schwartz made a bid to buy Air Canada and Canadian Airlines.

The deal is subject to a number of conditions, including court, regulatory and shareholder approvals.

It’s expected to close in the latter part of 2019 or early 2020.