AirTran expects a win at ballot box

AirTran executives will find out early today whether their lengthy pursuit of Midwest Airlines is likely to succeed.

The results of AirTran's third and final $389 million tender offer for the Milwaukee-based carrier are expected to be released this morning.

If AirTran's hostile bid attracts a solid majority of Midwest's 24.1 million outstanding shares, AirTran is likely to continue pressing its case. If not, transportation analysts say the Orlando-based discounter with flight operations centered in Atlanta will likely drop it.

"The numbers matter," said William McGinnis, a financial analyst at McGinnis Advisors in Milwaukee. "If the numbers are really high in AirTran's favor, Midwest's board is going to have to look closely at a transaction. If not, they can ignore them."

The tender offer also provides an early indication of how AirTran's effort to elect its own slate of candidates to Midwest's board of directors is likely to fare. Shareholders who back an AirTran takeover are almost sure to back an AirTran slate.

That battle will be decided June 14 at Midwest's annual meeting.

AirTran spokesman Tad Hutcheson said late Wednesday the company expects a strong show of support from Midwest shareholders.

"We're very encouraged by what we're seeing and hearing so far," he said.

Midwest regards the tender offer as a straw poll that has no bearing on its decision to stay independent.



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