Republic Airways CEO Bryan Bedford sees no urgency for the regional carrier to return to the public markets despite growing pressure among the privately held carrier’s shareholders.
“We have some shareholders that would like us to get back into public markets,” Bedford said on the sidelines of the Regional Airline Association Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Despite this, he said an initial public offering (IPO) is “not a priority” four years after the Indianapolis-based carrier was delisted from the Nasdaq.
Bedford’s comments come after the successful public debuts of U.S. carriers Frontier Airlines and Sun Country Airlines earlier this year. And in June, Bloomberg reported that Republic was working with Raymond James Financial Inc. on a possible IPO.
Republic was publicly traded until it emerged from its U.S. Chapter 11 reorganization in 2017. As part of that exit, partners American Airlines and United Airlines took equity stakes of 25 percent and 19 percent, respectively, in the carrier.
Bedford did not say whether American or United were among the shareholders that would like Republic to go public.
Aside from the IPO pressures, Republic’s future appears bright. The carrier did not lose its mainline contracts early in the pandemic and close its doors like Compass Airlines, ExpressJet Airlines and Trans States Airlines. Though Bedford did call the mainline carriers — American, Delta Air Lines and United — on which it relies on for its business “benevolent dictators” at the conference.
And in a show of its confidence in the future, Republic committed to a large new headquarters and training campus outside of Indianapolis earlier in September. The facility will consolidate crew training from multiple training spaces in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis and elsewhere into one location, and build a new training hotel where crews can stay. A third phase will bring the airlines headquarters to the campus in three- to five-years, said Bedford.
Bedford does anticipate further shrinkage of the U.S. regional airline sector over the next decade. He anticipates a bifurcation into several “extremely large players” and several “‘niche-y’ small guys” — like Cape Air. Asked whether Republic will be one of the large players, he said the airline has a “secure long-term future.”
Republic flies roughly 200 Embraer E-Jets under contracts for American, Delta and United.