By Diane Bartz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Online travel company Expedia Inc, the world's largest online travel services company by bookings, has won U.S. antitrust approval to buy rival Orbitz Worldwide Inc for $1.3 billion, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.
The department said it did not require any asset sales in exchange for antitrust approval.
"We concluded that Expedia’s acquisition of Orbitz is not likely to substantially lessen competition or harm U.S. consumers," Bill Baer, head of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division, said in a statement.
The Justice Department announced its decision after the stock market closed, but expectation that the deal would be approved pushed Expedia's share price from about $119 a share to more than $125 a share in the late afternoon. It traded at $124.68 in after-hours trading.
Orbitz's share price rose from about $11.25 to about $11.90 during regular trading and was at $12 after the regular close.
Expedia, which owns the website that bears its name as well as Hotels.com, Hotwire and other brands, also recently purchased Travelocity. Its rival Priceline Group Inc owns Booking.com, OpenTable and Kayak.
Expedia spokeswoman Sarah Gavin said that the company was "pleased" to win Justice Department approval. She did not say when the deal would close.
Expedia and Priceline face increasing competition from the likes of Google Inc, airlines and hotel chains, which also sell itineraries on their websites.
Baer said that during a six-month investigation, the Antitrust Division found no evidence that consumers would face higher charges if the two booking companies merged. They also found that hotels, car rental companies and airlines were unlikely to be harmed.
"The Antitrust Division investigated the concerns that have been expressed about this transaction," said Baer. "At the end of this process, however, we concluded that the acquisition is unlikely to harm competition and consumers."
(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Will Dunham and Cynthia Osterman)