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Microsoft Joins Group Challenging Google’s ITA Acquisition

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. has joined a group protesting Google Inc.’s $700 million acquisition of travel-search company ITA Software Inc.

Microsoft said today it has become a member of FairSearch.org, a coalition urging the U.S. Justice Department to challenge Google’s purchase of the flight-search company.

The Justice Department in August extended its investigation of whether the $700 million purchase, announced in July, violates antitrust laws.

“As an ITA Software customer, Microsoft’s ability to continue providing innovative ways for consumers to find the best flights at the lowest prices online rests on a competitive market for travel technology,” said Jack Evans, a spokesman for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft.

The software company is joining FairSearch.org to help raise awareness of “how the proposed Google-ITA merger could hurt travelers by slowing innovation and contributing to higher travel costs,” Evans said in an e-mailed statement.

Google has pledged to honor all of ITA’s existing agreements with travel websites.

Microsoft’s decision to oppose the ITA deal was no surprise, said Adam Kovacevich, a Washington-based spokesman for Google of Mountain View, California,

“Microsoft is our largest competitor and lobbies regulators against every acquisition we make,” Kovacevich said in an e-mailed statement. The ITA acquisition will “provide consumers with better flight search tools and more choices and drive more traffic to travel websites,” Kovacevich said.

‘Dominate, Manipulate’

Acquisition of ITA by Google would give the owner of the world’s more popular Internet search engine control over software used by most of its rivals and may allow Google “to dominate and manipulate” the market for online air travel, FairSearch.org said today in an e-mailed statement on Microsoft joining its efforts.

Other new members of FairSearch.org are Foundem, a U.K.- based comparison-shopping service, Level...com, a French on-line travel agency association based in Paris, and ZUJI, a Singapore-based online travel service agency, according to the group.

FairSearch.org, founded in October, already counts Expedia Inc., Kayak.com and Travelocity owner Sabre Holdings Corp. as members. Travelocity owns ZUJI.

Among Google allies supporting the acquistion are Orbitz Worldwide Inc. and Priceline.com Inc.

In September, independent software developers told the House Judiciary Committee that they feared not getting fair access to ITA’s flight-information software if Google buys the company.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sara Forden in Washington at sforden@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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