The U.S. Justice Department’s Antitrust Division decided to close its investigation into Expedia Inc.’s $1.3 billion acquisition of Orbitz Worldwide Inc. The acquisition includes all of Orbitz’s brands and assets.
“We know online travel booking is important to U.S. consumers and to the airlines, car rental companies and hotels that serve those consumers,” Bill Baer, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, said in a Department of Justice press release. “Over the course of a six-month investigation, lawyers and economists from the Antitrust Division reviewed tens of thousands of business documents, analyzed transactional data from the merging companies and from other industry players and interviewed over 60 industry participants of various types and sizes.”
“The Antitrust Division investigated the concerns that have been expressed about this transaction,” added Baer. “We took those concerns seriously and factored into our analysis all of the information provided by third parties. At the end of this process, however, we concluded that the acquisition is unlikely to harm competition and consumers.”
Baer provided three reasons the Antitrust Division came to this conclusion:
“There are several reasons for this conclusion. First, we uncovered no evidence in our investigation that the merger is likely to result in new charges being imposed directly on consumers for using Expedia or Orbitz. So we focused our investigation on the commissions Expedia and Orbitz negotiate with airlines, car rental companies and hotels.
“Second, we found that Orbitz is only a small source of bookings for most of these companies and thus has had no impact in recent years on the commissions Expedia charges. Many independent hotel operators, for example, do not contract with Orbitz, and those hotels that do often obtain very few bookings from its site. In addition, beyond Expedia and Orbitz, travel service providers have alternative ways to attract customers and obtain bookings, including Expedia’s largest online travel agent rival, Priceline.
“Third, the evidence suggests that the online travel business is rapidly evolving. In the past 18 months, for example, the industry has seen the introduction of TripAdvisor’s Instant Booking service and Google’s Hotel and Flight Finder with related booking functionality.”
Due to the completion of this transaction, Orbitz Worldwide Inc. stock is on longer being traded on the New York Stock Exchange, according to the company.
"We are pleased to welcome Orbitz Worldwide to our family of leading travel brands," said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Expedia Inc. "Our mission is to revolutionize travel through the power of technology. Given Orbitz's focus on transforming the way consumers around the world plan and book travel, we couldn't be more aligned. … "