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United / Continental Merger Looks To Be A Go Pending Judge’s Ruling

The $3.22 billion all-stock United / Continental merger originally announced back in May was approved by shareholders just last week and is scheduled to be finalized by Oct. 1st. The merger received regulatory approval from the Justice Department last summer. As reported on our blog, a heated legal battle opposing the deal on behalf of consumers has been playing out over the past few months between a San Franciso-based Attorney representing consumers and the airlines. Both prosecution and defense presented final arguments before U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg this week.

The only way for the merger to be temporarily put on hold is for Judge Seeborg to have been convinced the merger significantly reduces marketplace competition or creates a monopoly. A portion of the prosecution’s argument focused on potential decreases in service and price increases, though Judge Seeborg must perceive these as realistic threats to consumers for him to temporarily halt the acquisition.

The merger is high visibility, as it involves 80,000 jobs and would create the largest airline in the U.S., surpassing Delta Airlines. A defense attorney representing both Continental and United Airlines argues the prosecution neglected to surface sufficient evidence to allow the judge to put a stop to the merger, as similar investigations brought by other attorneys nationally have been closed. Judge Seeborg has noted he will rule on the matter before the Oct. 1st finalization date.

Source: Daily Hearld “Continental, United merger contested in federal court” 9/20/10

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