Are Antitrust Regulators Poised to Approve Google-ITA Deal Soon? (Pending Certain Conditions, Of Course!)
Google’s $700 million acquisition of ITA, the major data provider in the travel industry, could be approved by federal regulators in the coming weeks, despite fervent opposition from competitors and various advocacy groups, said multiple sources.
According to these sources, the Department of Justice–which has been investigating the deal for the past eight months–and the search giant appear to be on the cusp of coming to terms over government approval of the merger.
To be sure, nothing is certain, and negotiations could always break down.
Still, if approved, these sources added, any deal would be contingent upon Google agreeing to several conditions, some of which the Silicon Valley search giant has already conceded.
For instance, Google has said from the start that it will continue to honor all existing agreements with ITA’s existing partners and also would continue to license data to new partners.
A lot rides on keeping those promises.
ITA is a Boston-based software company which dominates the organizing of airline data, including flight times, availability and prices.
Google says by acquiring ITA it will try to improve travel-related search since it is among its highest-volume queries it receives.
It says its goal is to refer people quickly to a site where flights can be purchased, and doesn’t have plans to sell flights itself.
In February, the American Antitrust Institute voiced concerns about Google’s acquisition of ITA, urging regulators to take a close look because a deal of this nature could create “unregulatable monopoly.”
Many other companies spoke up to oppose the deal, including Microsoft’s Bing, Kayak.com and Expedia.com. FairSearch.org has also been particularly vocal, as well as Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who chairs the antitrust committee of the National Association of Attorneys General.
Short of blocking the merger, what would be acceptable terms for these critics might include continued oversight of the company’s conduct for a certain period of time.
In other words, to make sure it keeps its promise to play nice.