UPDATE 1-Google, ITA decision expected Friday-sources

* Decision likely today – sources

* Settlement to focus on licensing of ITA software

By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON, April 8 (Reuters) – The Justice Department is
likely to announce on Friday that Google (GOOG.O: Quote, Profile, Research) can buy
airline ticketing software company ITA Software as long as
ITA’s products remain available to Google’s rivals, a source
close to the deal said Friday.

A second source said that a deal was “looking likely.”

Google, the world’s No. 1 Internet search engine, said in
July it would buy ITA Software for $700 million in cash. The
announcement sparked concerns that travel websites such as
Kayak and TripAdvisor could be deprived of ITA’s software.

ITA’s QPX is used by leading airlines and travel
distributors like Alaska Airlines (ALK.N: Quote, Profile, Research), American Airlines
(AMR.N: Quote, Profile, Research), Microsoft’s (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) Bing and Hotwire (EXPE.O: Quote, Profile, Research), among
others.

Kayak.com, for example, asked for assurances that Google
would extend its software licenses when they expire, that the
software would be upgraded, and that a firewall was placed
around the companies’ proprietary software — which ITA can now
see — to protect their intellectual property.

One condition from the Justice Department would touch on
licensing of ITA products to Google rivals, said a third
source, who spoke privately to protect relationships with the
agency.

The ITA buy is part of an acquisition and recruiting spree
as Google aims to ensure its online products remain popular as
surfers go mobile and turn to new services like the wildly
popular Facebook.

But it was not immediately clear if any consent decree
would touch on how Google treats potential competitors in
search results.

Foundem, a British price comparison website, is one of
several companies that have accused Google of manipulating
results so that Foundem and other rival websites show up lower
in search results. Users overwhelmingly tend to click on the
first few results.

Google could not be reached for comment on this story but
has said previously that since it does not compete against ITA
Software, the deal would not affect competition in the online
travel industry and, thus, is legal.

The Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department are
reportedly contemplating investigating Google on the issue of
search fairness, but any probe would be moot if the issue were
resolved as a part of the antitrust assessment of the
Google/ITA deal.

European regulators are also looking into Google’s search
practices.
(Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Dave
Zimmerman and Steve Orlofsky)

UPDATE 1-Google, ITA decision expected Friday-sources