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Priceline Group Inc.'s $550 million bid to buy rival online travel search site Momondo Group Ltd. got a green light July 17 from the EU’s Competition Commission, which said the deal did not raise competitive concerns.
The EU unconditionally approved the deal, saying that the travel search companies’ operations are largely complementary and that the merged entity will continue to face stiff competition from other big sites like Skyscanner Ltd., Trivago NV, TripAdvisor Inc., and Google Inc.
Priceline announced the merger in February, proposing to fold Momondo’s metasearch capabilities into its existing Kayak unit. The deal comes amid wider industry consolidation and expansion. Chinese Ctrip.com Intl. Ltd. bought rival metasearch site Skyscanner in November, and Trivago went public in December. Google also has made steady advances into the space with its Google Flights and Google Hotels offerings.
“We are pleased with the outcome and now working toward closing the deal, which we hope will be soon,” a spokeswoman for Priceline Group told Bloomberg BNA.
The EU assessed the merger’s impact on metasearch sites in the European Economic Area (EEA). Metasearch sites allow travelers to search for and compare travel products. They also offer advertising to travel service providers like airlines, hotel operators, and car rental companies.
The commission “also examined a number of vertical relationships arising from the merging companies’ activities in the operation of metasearch sites and their activities in operating online travel agents downstream,” according to the EU’s statement on the deal.
It saw no problems in any of those markets. Because the two companies are strong in different EU markets — Priceline is bigger in Germany and Austria where Momondo is weak, and Momondo is strong in the Nordic countries and U.K., where Priceline has struggled — the merged company isn’t gaining market power in any one country so much as expanding its footprint through the EEA.
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