Midwest to Hear AirTran Pitch

The move comes as Midwest holders apparently vote for three directors nominated by AirTran.
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Though it took some time,



is finally ready to talk to



about a possible deal.

The gesture came after Midwest shareholders apparently voted to elect three new directors, nominated by AirTran, to the company's nine-member board.

Preliminary voting, tabulated at Thursday's annual meeting, indicated the trio has backing from about 65% of the shares voted. Certification is expected to be announced June 26.

AirTran, which first approached Midwest about a merger two years ago, unveiled a hostile takeover bid in December. Until now, its efforts to make a formal presentation to the board have been rebuffed.

"While we are disappointed by today's results, we recognize that our shareholders have spoken," said Midwest CEO Timothy Hoeksema, in a prepared statement. "If today's election says anything at all, it says that our shareholders want us to listen, and that is what we intend to do."

AirTran CEO Joe Leonard said the results demonstrate shareholders' desire "for Midwest to fully and fairly consider the merits of a combination with AirTran."

AirTran, which is offering $389 million, or about $15 a share for Midwest, has extended its tender offer until Aug. 10.