Booking’s 1.63 billion euro purchase of the Swedish peer ETraveli Group was denied on Monday, by the European Union’s antitrust authorities due to concerns that the deal would strengthen the company’s dominant status in the travel agency sector.
According to Reuters, the EU Commission announced that Booking would have had an unfair competitive advantage over other businesses in the market if the deal went ahead.
However, Booking Holdings believes that the Commission has gone wrong on both the facts of the case and the law applicable to this transaction. They are confident that the remedies presented by the company to address the Commission’s regulatory concerns were sufficient, and the acquisition was cleared unconditionally by multiple competition authorities, including the UK Competition & Markets Authority and the U.S. FTC.
The EU Commission argued that the proposed purchase would cause higher costs for hotels and possibly a negative impact on the price paid by consumers. EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders stated that “Bans are rare, and today’s decision is in fact the first merger to be blocked this year.”
Reynders further added that “Booking proposes to display offers from competing hotel authors on its flight checkout page, which is best shown to travelers after they purchase their flight tickets. The selection and ranking of authors and competitors were not sufficiently transparent and non-discriminatory.”
In response to the Commission’s decision, Booking Holdings released a statement saying that they strongly disagree with the Commission’s assessment and looks forward to bringing their case before the European Courts. The company also announced this week that it had extended its existing flight agreement with ETraveli to 2028.