* No final decision on whether to contest the deal
* Some at Justice Dept canceled Christmas plans
(Adds Google comment, byline; changes dateline to Washington)
By Diane Bartz
WASHINGTON, Jan 13 U.S. regulators are putting
together a possible antitrust challenge to Google Inc's
(GOOG.O) planned $700 million acquisition of airline ticketing
software company ITA Software, sources knowledgeable about the
deal said on Thursday.
The proposed deal has sparked worries in the tech world
that travel websites such as Orbitz Worldwide Inc (OWW.N),
Kayak and TripAdvisor could be deprived of ITA's critical
Officials in the Justice Department's antitrust division
have asked for data and documents about the merger and said
they wanted the information fast, the sources said.
"DOJ calls up and says 'We're under time pressure,'" said
"People (at the Justice Department) had told us that they
had canceled Christmas plans," a second person said.
"My own indication is that I don't see any signs that the
parties are going to resolve this amicably and the likelihood
as we sit today is that it will go to court," the first source
said. "But that could change."
Bloomberg reported that Google had invoked a provision of
federal law that forces the government to decide within 30 days
whether to challenge the deal.
Google declined to say whether it had started the clock
ticking on the merger review.
"While we continue to cooperate with the Justice
Department's review, we are ultimately confident that this
acquisition will increase competition," added Google spokesman
Google, the world's No. 1 Internet search engine, announced
plans to acquire ITA Software for $700 million in cash in
A Justice Department spokeswoman could not immediately be
reached for comment.
"Obviously they're thinking about bringing a lawsuit," said
Bob Doyle of the law firm Doyle, Barlow and Mazard PLLC.
Doyle argued that it would be difficult to fight the merger
in court because Google -- despite its heft in the tech world
-- is not in the same business as ITA. "We think it's a bad
case. We don't think the government has a good case," he said.
Google argues that since it does not compete against ITA
Software, the deal would not change existing market share in
the online travel industry and would result in better search
results for consumers.
(Additional reporting by Alexei Oreskovic. Editing by Robert
MacMillan and Gerald E. McCormick)