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Thomas Cook’s Co-Op Travel Merger May Face Scrutiny in U.K.

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Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. antitrust regulators sought permission from their European counterparts to review Thomas Cook Group Plc’s planned merger of its U.K. travel and foreign-exchange units with those of the Co-operative Group.

Should the request be granted, the Office of Fair Trading will decide whether the merger merits a full-scale competition investigation, the U.K. regulator said today in a statement. The European Commission has until Jan. 6 to make a decision.

London-based Thomas Cook remains confident that the transaction will be cleared, Chief Executive Officer Manny Fontenla-Novoa said in a separate statement today.

“We always knew that this request was a possibility and we will continue to work closely with the relevant authorities,” Fontenla-Novoa said.

Thomas Cook said on Oct. 8 when it announced the deal that the combined entity would be the U.K.’s largest travel retailer and the second-biggest provider of retail foreign exchange.

The OFT said any “adverse effects” from the transaction would be felt by consumers in the U.K.

“The proposed joint venture threatens significantly to affect competition in the supply of travel services, such as package holidays, via retail travel agency outlets in the U.K.,” the regulator said in its statement.

Thomas Cook fell 2.4 pence, or 1.3 percent, to 179.1 pence as of 11:43 a.m. in London trading.

To contact the reporter on this story: Armorel Kenna in Milan at akenna@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net.

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