WisBusiness: Midwest Chief Dismisses AirTran Bid as “Significantly Low”

By Dan Polley
For WisBusiness.com

Midwest Air Group Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tim Hoeksema dismissed the current offer by AirTran Holdings Inc. for the Wisconsin-based airline “significantly low.”

“I don’t think we’re at a point that we would sit down and talk to them without a fair offer on the table,” he said.

He said he and the company’s board of directors will look at value for shareholders and others. He said the company’s cash position and its plans for the future of the company have show that AirTran’s offers for a buyout are below a selling point. Air Tran’s current offer stands at $13.25 a share.

The stock was trading around $13 a share today.

“We’re in a very strong cash position,” he said during a Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon.

But he also said that a sale would not be beneficial for the company or Wisconsin. He said AirTran’s clients are not necessarily the same as Midwest’s and that he wasn’t even sure if Midwest’s employees would fly AirTran.

“Things are improving at Midwest Airlines, and people are beginning to see that,” he said.

Hoeksema said that Midwest has had a “significant” growth in the past four years and has plans to add 17 planes, 12 new routes and six new cities in the company’s service. He said Seattle, Wash., and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. were among those new cities.

Hoeksema said that Midwest hedged on fuel prices this year and have purchased enough to last through 2007. He said the company was able to hedge prices at $54 per barrel, compared to the $62 a barrel he said it’s now going for.