JetBlue, Spirit Airlines appeal court ruling blocking their proposed merger

JetBlue Airways Corp. and Spirit Airlines Inc. said late Friday that they have appealed a court ruling that earlier this week blocked their planned merger.


and Spirit

announced the appeal in a terse press release that provided no more details, adding only that the process is “consistent with the requirements of the merger agreement.”

Wall Street was split on whether the airlines would be legally obliged to appeal the Tuesday ruling, which sided with the Justice Department in saying that a merger between low-cost JetBlue and ultra-low-cost Spirit would hurt competition.

Shares of Spirit rallied 12% after hours Friday, while JetBlue shares fell nearly 2%. Analysts at JP Morgan said this week that the ruling freed JetBlue from a “costly merger.”

Earlier Friday, Spirit sought to reassure investors about its liquidity and issued an upbeat fourth-quarter revenue guidance. Spirit has amassed about $5.5 billion in debt, and is reportedly seeking advisers to help restructure it.

The likelihood of Spirit attracting a new merger or takeover bid is considered low without a debt restructuring. Frontier Group Holdings Inc.

and JetBlue competed for Spirit in 2022, with Frontier ultimately bowing out in July of that year.

Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth said in a note earlier Friday that it was “clear to us that Spirit is pressing JetBlue to appeal the antitrust ruling, but we continue to believe the chances of success are low.”

Syth has estimated that an appeal would take some four to five months.

Shares of Spirit have lost 67% in the past 12 months, while shares of JetBlue are down 41%. The U.S. Global Jets ETF
has lost 9% in the same period. Those losses contrast with gains of 24% for the S&P 500 index

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