January 14, 2011

Google Could Face Antitrust Issue With ITA Deal

Google Inc's planned $700 million acquisition of airline ticketing software company ITA Software, is set for a possible antitrust challenge from US regulators, according to sources familiar with the Google deal.

Reuters reports that the proposed deal has sparked concerns in the tech industry that travel sites such as Orbitz and TripAdvisor could be deprived of ITA's critical software.

The Justice Department's antitrust division has asked for data and documents about the merger and said they wanted the information ASAP, sources said on Thursday.

"DOJ calls up and says 'We're under time pressure,'" said one source according to Reuters reporter Diane Bartz.

"People (at the Justice Department) had told us that they had canceled Christmas plans," a second source told Bartz.

"My own indication is that I don't see any signs that the parties are going to resolve this amicably and the likelihood as we sit today is that it will go to court," the first source said. "But that could change."

Google had called upon a provision of federal law that forces the government to decide within 30 days whether to challenge the deal or not, according to a Bloomberg report.

"While we continue to cooperate with the Justice Department's review, we are ultimately confident that this acquisition will increase competition," Google spokesman, Adam Kovacevich, told Reuters.

Google had announced its plans to acquire ITA Software in July for $700 million in cash.

Bob Doyle of the law firm Doyle, Barlow and Mazard PLLC, said it's obvious that the Department of Justice is "thinking about bringing a lawsuit."

He argued that it would be very hard to fight the merger in court because Google -- despite its strong pull in the tech world -- is not in the same business as ITA. "We think it's a bad case. We don't think the government has a good case," said Doyle.

Google argued that since it is not in competition with ITA Software, the deal would not change existing market share in the company and would actually result in better search results for consumers.


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