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AirTran takes offer straight to Midwest's shareholders

An AirTran jets lands in Milwaukee, where the carrier's takeover target, Midwest Air Group, is headquartered. AirTran sweetened its bid for the regional carrier to about $345 million. An AirTran jets lands in Milwaukee, where the carrier's takeover target, Midwest Air Group, is headquartered. AirTran sweetened its bid for the regional carrier to about $345 million. (Morry Gash/Associated Press)

MILWAUKEE -- AirTran Holdings Inc. appealed directly to shareholders yesterday with a sweetened offer of about $345 million in cash and stock for rival Midwest Air Group Inc. after the regional carrier rebuffed an earlier unsolicited takeover bid.

AirTran Holdings, which owns the discount carrier AirTran Airways, raised its offer for Midwest Air Group by almost 18 percent.

Midwest said its board would evaluate the offer and make a recommendation to shareholders with 10 days.

"We certainly believe the consolidation has started in this industry and will continue and that Midwest is vulnerable," AirTran chairman and chief executive Joe Leonard said .

A day earlier, US Airways Group Inc. raised its bid for Delta Air Lines Inc. to by about 20 percent to $10.3 billion.

Delta had rejected the previous offer and opposed to the takeover bid.

The new offer for Midwest Air Group was equivalent to $13.25 per Midwest share, based on the closing price of AirTran common stock on Monday, and represented a premium of almost 3 percent over the airline's closing share price on Wednesday.

AirTran earlier bid $11.25 per share for Midwest Air Group, but the Midwest board turned down that offer on Dec. 6, prompting the Orlando, Fla., discount carrier to bypass the board in its latest takeover attempt.

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