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UPDATE 3-Spirit Airlines to delay vote on Frontier deal for fourth time

·1 min read

(Rewrites, adds statement from JetBlue, share movements)

July 13 (Reuters) - Takeover target Spirit Airlines Inc plans to delay a shareholder vote on its sale to Frontier Group Holdings Inc for the fourth time, as both carriers struggle to gather enough support for the deal.

Spirit intends to push the special meeting to July 27 from July 15, it said on Wednesday, two days after Frontier requested it to defer the vote on the deal that could create the fifth-largest U.S. airline.

The ultra-low-cost carrier has been at the center of a heated takeover battle between Frontier and JetBlue Airways Corp since it first announced a deal with Frontier in February.

Though JetBlue's $3.7 billion offer is higher, Spirit has repeatedly touted Frontier's $2.7 billion bid, citing higher long-term benefits and less regulatory risks than a potential deal with JetBlue.

Still, Spirit said on Wednesday that discussions with JetBlue would continue.

"We remain encouraged by the significant progress made in our ongoing discussions with Spirit," JetBlue Chief Executive Robin Hayes said in a statement.

Frontier Chief Executive Barry Biffle has said the airline remains a long way away from obtaining requisite support for the deal, as more shareholders come out in support of the JetBlue bid.

On Tuesday, Spirit shareholder Discovery Capital Management LLC became its second major shareholder to publicly back a deal with JetBlue.

Spirit and Frontier shares were down about 1%, while shares of JetBlue dropped roughly 3% as surging inflation hit U.S. stocks.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair and Nathan Gomes in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni, Vinay Dwivedi and Devika Syamnath)