Google Moves Into Online Travel

Google Inc. thrust itself into the online travel industry Thursday by agreeing to acquire ITA Software Inc., a flight-information software company, for $700 million in cash, outmaneuvering other potential bidders in a deal likely to bring fresh antitrust scrutiny to the Internet giant.

Google said the acquisition of ITA, which organizes data such as flight times, ticket availability and prices, will enable it to create online search tools to help people find such information more easily on the Web. The Internet search giant said the acquisition will make it easier for customers to comparison shop for flights and airfares and drive more potential customers to the $80 billion online travel market.

“I think it’s unlikely that anything we do [with ITA's technology] will look very much like what’s available today,” said Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt during a conference call.

Google said the deal shouldn’t raise antirust concerns because it doesn’t currently compete against ITA, which licenses its technology to help power travel booking sites including Kayak.com and those owned by individual airlines. Still, the acquisition could come under regulatory scrutiny because it would pair the largest search site on the Web with the dominant travel search software company. Mr. Schmidt said during the conference call that while he was comfortable with the company’s position, Google expected a “significant” regulatory review of the deal.

ITA’s technology earlier drew interest from several other firms, including Expedia Inc., Kayak.com, Travelport LP and Amadeus SA, people familiar with the matter said. Some of them submitted unsolicited bids for ITA but weren’t given access to ITA’s financial information because it was in exclusive talks with Google, these people said.

Story continued at The Wall Street Journal Online

Amir Efrati And Gina Chon / The Wall Street Journal