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Brussels, 31st March 2009

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of tour operator Gold Medal by Thomas Cook

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of sole control over the UK company Gold Medal International by Thomas Cook Group of the UK. The Commission concluded that the operation would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or in any substantial part of it.

Thomas Cook is an integrated leisure tour operator offering package holidays, flights, holiday accommodation and associated services both through travel agencies and directly to consumers. It also operates its own charter airline.

Gold Medal is an independent leisure travel group specialising in the supply of long-haul travel both as packages and as independent holidays, selling flights and accommodation separately. Gold Medal distributes its holiday services through independent travel agencies or directly via internet and telephone.

The UK market is currently characterised by the presence of two major vertically integrated tour operators, Thomas Cook and TUI, a large number of smaller independent tour operators for short-haul holidays and a few medium-size operators like Virgin Travel and Kuoni for long-haul package holidays.

The Commission found that the activities of Thomas Cook and Gold Medal are largely complementary: Thomas Cook is predominantly active in short haul destinations with a focus on package holidays, while Gold Medal focuses on long haul destinations and sales of third parties' scheduled flights. The proposed transaction would lead to overlaps solely on the markets for short-haul and long-haul foreign package holidays.

On these markets, the increment brought about by the acquisition of Gold Medal is very limited. The Commission's investigation found that the parties would continue to face several effective competitors with significant market shares and that the proposed concentration would thus not raise competition concerns.

More information on the case will be available at:

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