The C$5 billion takeover of Canadian airline WestJet by Toronto-based private equity firm Onex Corporation has overcome its first hurdle.

Canada’s transport minister yesterday cleared the deal which now goes forward for approval by shareholders on July 23 and final government rubber stamping.

The takeover is expected to be completed in the latter half of the year, subject to the regulatory green light.

The deal was agreed in May following an approach by Onex in March.

WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims said: “We welcome the decision by the Minister of Transport, and we will continue to co-operate with the necessary authorities on the remaining regulatory approvals.”

The move comes as the owner of rival Air Transat faces a bidding war between Air Canada and real estate developer Group Mach.