Group Mach exec warns of Transat ‘smoke and mirrors’ as companies square off

MONTREAL — Transat A.T. is facing off against Montreal developer Group Mach at a securities tribunal hearing over Mach’s move to block the tour operator’s sale to Air Canada.

The session at a downtown office tower today follows Transat’s complaint earlier this week that called on authorities to bar the real estate company from scooping up a plurality of Transat shares in a bid to derail the pending acquisition by Canada’s biggest airline.

Group Mach lawyer Marc Duchesne called on the administrative tribunal to let shareholders decide, citing what he deemed their “fundamental right…to choose.”

Transat’s counsel dubbed the Group Mach offer of $14 per share — an eight per cent premium over Air Canada’s $13-per-share purchase agreement — “abusive, misleading and coercive.”

Lawyer Alain Riendeau says the proposition fosters a “false sense of uncertainty and risk” in order to coax shareholders to sell their stake, “against their own interests and those of other shareholders,” according to Transat.

Alfred Bugge, Group Mach’s head of mergers and acquisitions, called the tour operator’s accusations “baseless” and “smoke and mirrors,” saying any concerns about a hostile takeover should be allayed by the fact that the three biggest shareholders currently have a nearly 37 per cent stake.

Transat spurned Group Mach’s effort earlier this summer to top Air Canada’s $520-million deal.

Group Mach now hopes to secure “at least” 6.9 million Class B shares or 19.5 per cent at a cost of about $97 million. Chief executive Vincent Chiara says he aims to then vote against Air Canada’s offer, which needs at least two-thirds support from shareholders.

A decision from the tribunal is expected this week.

Shareholders are slated to vote on the Air Canada offer Aug. 23, which would still face scrutiny from transportation and competition authorities.

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