Indigo's Frontier Airlines Said to Aim for Second-Quarter IPO

  • JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Citi, Evercore said tapped for deal
  • Denver-based no-frills carrier started exploring IPO in 2015

A crewmember de-ices a Frontier Airlines plane at LaGuardia Airport in New York.

Photographer: Seth Wenig/AP

Frontier Airlines Inc., the no-frills U.S. carrier whose aircraft feature animals on the tails, is aiming to go public as soon as the second quarter, people with knowledge of the matter said.

JPMorgan Chase & Co., Deutsche Bank AG, Citigroup Inc. and Evercore Partners Inc. are the leading underwriters on the deal, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Barclays Plc, once poised to lead the IPO, will now have a more passive role after the departure of its airline analyst, the people said. Frontier, owned by private equity firm Indigo Partners, first began talks with banks about going public in December 2015.

Spokesmen for Frontier, Indigo Partners and Evercore didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Representatives of JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, Citi and Barclays declined to comment.

Indigo is led by veteran airline executive William Franke, who has extensive experience overseeing discount carriers. The firm once controlled Spirit Airlines Inc., which went public in 2011, and is the largest shareholder in Wizz Air Holdings Plc, a low-fare operator in Eastern Europe.

Rare Birds

Airline IPOs in the U.S. are rare. Virgin America Inc. was the last to go public, raising $353 million in November 2014, including an overallotment. The carrier has since agreed to be acquired by Alaska Air Group Inc. for $2.6 billion, continuing a flurry of consolidation within the industry over the past decade.

Last month, Azul SA, the Brazilian airline led by JetBlue Airways Corp. founder David Neeleman, filed for a U.S. IPO, following at least two previous delays because of slumping Brazilian stocks. The deal is scheduled to price April 6, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Frontier, whose planes sport images of animals such as bears and foxes, operates a fleet of Airbus Group SE jets on more than 275 daily flights within the U.S. and to Mexico and Jamaica. Indigo acquired the Denver-based airline from Republic Airways Holdings Inc. for $36 million in cash. The total transaction value was $145 million including debt.

Frontier has changed hands twice since filing for bankruptcy protection in April 2008. Republic bought the carrier in October 2009 for $108.8 million, agreeing not to pursue a $150 million unsecured bankruptcy claim.

After the Indigo buyout, Frontier’s new owner transformed it into what’s known as an ultra-low-cost carrier -- an airline that offers inexpensive base fares and adds fees for everything else.

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