Britain's Office Of Fair Trading (OFT) is casting its eye over the recent bid to buy control of German hotel search company Trivago by US travel giant Expedia.
The watchdog agency will also be looking for feedback on Kayak's purchase by Priceline, in a possible prelude to a merger review.
It's interesting that the OFT is doing this because neither Kayak or Trivago have any significant presence in the UK.
But it's fairly routine due diligence, as it were, for OFT to check if a case might require a referral to the Competition Commission, and Expedia's $632 million purchase of a majority stake in Trivago is significant.
The result of a merger review by OFT and the Competition Commission could lead the UK government to seek remedies like forced asset sales.
The investigation may be thought of as a big test of the OFT's and the the Competition Commission's attitudes to a wave of mergers in online travel. (Somewhat ironically, two governmental bodies are due to merge themselves in 2014.)
Here's the official statement:
The Office of Fair Trading is considering whether arrangements are in progress or in contemplation which, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and, if so, whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom.
The news comes after the Moody's announcement that Expedia's proposed acquisition won't affect the Ba1 corporate family rating.
Moody's expressed the view that Expedia will make other acquisitions "to support revenue growth." For the year ending September 30, Expedia Inc spent, pro-forma, about $1.25 billion of cash for acquisitions and share repurchases.