EU-UK divergence on digital mergers – Case 3: Booking/eTraveli 22 February 24 Miklós Kozma

The UK's exit from the EU in 2021 empowered the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to probe big global mergers concurrently with the European Commission. So far, six acquisitions in digital markets have faced such parallel merger reviews. In five of them, both the acquirer and the target was a US-based company.

Our new report looks at these cases side by side, shedding light on the different conclusions often reached by the two authorities.

Stay tuned over the next weeks, as we look back at each case that saw divergent outcomes. Complimentary copies of detailed case summaries from Cullen International’s Antitrust & Mergers Database are available on request.

Case 3: Booking/eTraveli

The CMA unconditionally cleared Booking’s proposed €1.63bn acquisition of eTraveli in September 2022, but the transaction was blocked by the Commission one year later.

Both Booking and eTraveli operate online travel agencies (OTAs), though they focus on different product markets: Booking mainly provides hotel OTA services, while eTraveli mainly provides flight OTA services.

Despite the lack of major horizontal overlaps, the Commission was concerned that the enlargement of Booking’s “travel services ecosystem” through the acquisition of eTraveli would strengthen the company’s dominant position in the hotel OTA market in the European Economic Area (EEA).

One of the Commission’s key findings was that flight OTAs like eTraveli are an important customer acquisition channel for hotel OTAs in the EEA.

The CMA reached the opposite conclusion. It reckoned that flight OTAs are not a particularly significant customer acquisition channel for hotel OTAs in the UK.

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