Report: DOJ prepares challenge to Google's ITA acquisition

The agency will make a decision on an antitrust challenge by early February, according to a report

The U.S. Department of Justice is preparing documents for an antitrust challenge of Google's planned acquisition of travel software maker ITA Software, according to reports from Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

The DOJ has not made a final decision on whether to challenge the $700 million acquisition, but DOJ staffers have begun preparing documents to file in a challenge, the Journal article said. The DOJ is expected to make a decision about whether to challenge the acquisition by early February, said the Journal, citing an unnamed source.

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A DOJ spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the agency would challenge the acquisition. "It's a pending matter," said Gina Talamona, the spokeswoman.

Google continues to cooperate with the DOJ's review of the sale, said Google spokesman Adam Kovacevich. "We are ultimately confident that this acquisition will increase competition," he said.

Google announced in July 2010 that it planned to acquire ITA, which makes software that powers several flight-shopping sites and the booking sites of several airlines.

Google said then that it is interested in ITA's technology because it could improve the ability of Google's search engine to deliver flight and other travel information. Many Google queries are related to travel, the company said.

But in October, online travel sites Expedia, Kayak, Sabre and Fairlogix objected to the acquisition, saying it would hurt competition and drive up prices. The acquisition would give Google an unfair advantage over competitors, they said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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