Australia’s competition watchdog has given the green light for global travel booking giant Expedia’s $700 million takeover of Wotif.com.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it would not oppose the acquisition, despite opposition from hotels who claim the move will push up fees.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said competition in the online travel booking sector had grown considerably recently, which would limit Expedia’s ability to increase fees.
“The ACCC considered that the acquisition was unlikely to diminish the dynamic nature of the industry,” he said.
He said a number of smaller online travel agents had entered the market and metasearch sites like TripAdvisor and Google Hotels Finder were playing an increasingly important role, allowing hotels to directly market themselves to consumers.
“Disruptive developments from smaller online travel agents and from companies in related online sectors, such as the metasearch providers, can be expected to constrain Expedia in the future.”
Hotel groups had argued that commissions charged by Expedia and its fellow US giant Priceline, which owns Booking.com and Agoda, were lower in Australia due to more competition here.
Removing Wotif from the equation could lead to higher fees, they claimed.
In a statement, Wotif.com welcomed the decision and said the takeover was expected to be completed by the end of October, pending approval from shareholders and New Zealand authorities.
Wotif’s board of directors has urged shareholders to accept Expedia’s $3.30-a-share takeover offer.
Co-founders Graeme Wood and Andrew Bice have agreed to sell their holdings.