Spirit Airlines shares lose altitude after judge blocks its purchase by JetBlue


JetBlue-Spirit merger blocked by Boston judge

JetBlue-Spirit merger blocked by Boston judge


Spirit Airlines shares continued their descent after a federal judge this week blocked its acquisition by JetBlue Airways for $3.8 billion.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Spirit is exploring its strategic options following the legal setback, including ways of dealing with a $1.1 billion debt pile coming due in 2025.

Spirit didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

U.S. District Judge William Young on Tuesday ruled in favor of federal antitrust enforcers who had sued to stop the deal on grounds that it would hurt airline industry competition and raise prices for budget-conscious travelers.

JetBlue and Spirit contend a merger would allow the enlarged carrier to offer low-cost fares in more markets around the country and help it compete with the largest U.S. airlines. The companies said they they are assessing their legal options.

Spirit’s stock price fell 19% in early afternoon Thursday to roughly $5 before rebounding slightly to $5.72. The shares have plunged roughly 68% since Young blocked the deal. 

Spirit, based in Miramar, Florida, saw its revenues plunge in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic crippled air traffic, and continued to struggle the following year. Although the airline’s top-line results have rebounded since then as travelers returned to the skies, its financial losses have swelled. 

For the company’s most recent quarter, Spirit in October reported a net loss of $157.6 million, extending a string of losses dating back to 2020.

The downturn comes as bigger carriers like American Airlines, Delta and United increasingly compete with discount players in key markets.

Spirit’s downbeat financial results have stirred speculation about its long-term prospects, with some Wall Street analysts saying the airline could be headed for bankruptcy. 

Although Spirit could seek a deal with another buyer, “a more likely scenario is a Chapter 11 filing, followed by a liquidation,” Helane Becker, a veteran airline analyst with financial services firm Cowen, said in a report. “We recognize this sounds alarmist and harsh, but the reality is we believe there are limited scenarios that enable Spirit to restructure.”

—The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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