WisBusiness: Midwest Airlines Exec Sees a Bright 2007, No Takeover

By Brian E. Clark

MADISON – Midwest Airlines will continue to expand, create jobs and fend off hostile takeover attempts in 2007, a top executive with the company said Thursday at the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development.

Moreover, Midwest will keep serving its signature chocolate chip cookies on its flights, said Scott R. Dickson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the airline.

But Dickson spent most of his time discussing the efforts by Orlando-based AirTran Holdings to acquire Midwest.

After “careful evaluation,” he said Midwest’s board of directors has “emphatically and unanimously” rejected several bids, including the latest offer for $13.25 for each Midwest share.

In response to a question, he declined to speculate on what might be an acceptable price for Midwest stock. Some analysts have said the $13.25 offer is good, while others said the stock is worth $17 per share.

To help fight off AirTran’s ambitions, he urged — somewhat tongue-in-cheek — the 400-plus business people and development officials to buy and hold Midwest stock. But he was more serious when he said they should fly on the airline whenever possible.

Dickson said an AirTran takeover would not be good for Wisconsin because it would do away with Midwest Airlines, eliminate hundreds of jobs and lead to cuts in service to small cities. In recent weeks, Midwest has increased flights to smaller communities.

He said his company wants to see all of Wisconsin thrive and is doing its best to bring more tourists and business people to the Badger State.

“We are seeing solid bookings for 2007,” he said. “So far, so good. This will be an interesting year to watch.”Dickson bragged that Midwest posted a profit in 2006 and predicted smooth sailing this year. He noted that the company is predicting a return of $1.70 a share this year, a five-fold jump over 2006.

He said the company has locked in costs for 90 percent of its fuel for 2007 at relatively low December 2006 prices.

“And we will continue to deliver better value and service as we go forward,” he said.

In a welcoming speech to open the conference, Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton reviewed some of the economic programs Doyle discussed in his State of the State address last week.

Lawton also talked about global warming, warning that a “low-carbon economy” is inevitable, but also saying that business, industry and science can innovate to find “elegant solutions” to the problem.

In addition, she said the state would invest more money into training for technical workers because a shortage of skilled workers is approaching Wisconsin like a “steaming train.”