Booking Holdings has confirmed that it plans to appeal the decision by European regulators to block its acquisition of Etraveli Group.
The European Commission published its decision to prohibit the deal under the EU merger regulation on Monday, saying the deal would have “allowed Booking to strengthen its dominant position on the market for hotel online travel agencies in the European Economic Area.”
In a statement, Booking said it would appeal to the European courts and that the company believes “the Commission is wrong on both the facts of the case and the law applicable to this transaction, which was cleared unconditionally by multiple competition authorities, including the U.K. Competition Markets Authority and U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
“The Commission has fundamentally misconstrued the highly competitive travel markets for flights and accommodations, and its decision is an unexplainable departure from the Commission’s own Non-Horizontal Merger Guidelines, which are legally binding on the Commission. The acquisition, which would have combined two separate but complementary Europe-based businesses operating within separate, highly competitive industries, would have delivered tremendous benefits for consumers and partners by bringing more options and competitive pricing,” it added.
Booking said the decision would not impact its commitment to building out its flights offering, echoing sentiment expressed by CFO David Goulden at a Goldman Sachs event earlier this month.
At the time, he said that Booking has a partnership with Etraveli until the end of 2028 and that flights are integral to the company’s connected trip strategy.
Reacting to the Commission’s decision, Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel said, “The European Commission’s decision not only departs from settled law and precedent but it deprives consumers of travel options that they are entitled to have.”
Marie Audren, director general of HOTREC, an umbrella association for European hotel and restaurant organizations, said: “HOTREC has long been raising alarms about Booking’s market power and its impact on European hoteliers. Today’s decision of the European Commission takes into account those concerns and can only be welcomed. HOTREC will remain vigilant and strongly react to any business decisions that negatively impact SME hotels.”
Booking Holdings first announced its plan to acquire Etraveli Group from CVC Capital Partners for 1.6 billion euros in November 2021.
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