According to a report in the Globe & Mail, Ottawa has approved WestJet's acquisition of Sunwing, and will likely make the official announcement Friday 10MAR.
The price of the sale, which reportedly includes Sunwing Airlines, Sunwing Vacations, Vacation Express and the company's Canadian retail assets, has not been disclosed. Sunwing is privately owned by the founding Hunter family and TUI Group. Stephen Hunter and TUI will become WestJet shareholders under the terms of the deal, it has been reported.
The deal was announced a year ago, and has been pending regulatory approval by the federal Cabinet based on a recommendation from the Minister of Transport.
That approval now appears to have been given, but according to the Globe's sources, will likely come with strings attached following concerns expressed by Canada's Competition Bureau last fall.
The Competition Bureau has been opposed to the takeover deal, warning of “substantial lessening or prevention of competition” in sales of vacation packages combining air and resorts stays on 31 routes it identified between Canada and the Caribbean and Mexico. The Competition Bureau contended that WestJet would "gain a monopoly" on 16 of those routes. Furthermore it was concerned that Canadians would have reduced travel options.
As Open Jaw has reported, the Competition Bureau believes that "eliminating the rivalry between these integrated airlines and tour operators would likely result in increased prices, less choice and decreases in service for Canadians. It would also likely result in a significant reduction in travel by Canadians on a variety of routes where their existing travel networks overlap."
Sunwing and WestJet have maintained confidence that the deal would be permitted by Ottawa, and disputed the Bureau's concerns. On 26OCT, following the publication of the Competition Bureau's report, Sunwing issued a statement that said, "We remain confident that this transaction is good news for Canadians. The combination of WestJet’s and Sunwing’s complementary businesses will deliver more affordable vacation packages and competitive airfares, while enabling us to protect and create jobs at a critical time for the travel industry."