Decision expected soon on referral of Airtours bid

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The Independent Online
A DECISION on whether to refer Airtours' pounds 209m takeover bid for Owners Abroad, the rival holiday company, to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission could be made this week, writes John Shepherd.

Industry sources say the Office of Fair Trading will today hold a merger meeting with representatives of the Civil Aviation Authority, the Bank of England and English Heritage.

The meeting, the sources added, could put the seal on the recommendation the OFT must make to the Department of Trade and Industry, which will decide whether to refer a bid to the MMC.

Implications of the takeover move will also be considered today by the Airport Operators Association. Les Wilson, chief executive of Bristol airport, said the fear of some small tour operators that their access to aircraft seats could be squeezed would be discussed.

Airtours, Owners and Thomson, the largest tour operator, speak for more than 90 per cent of charter passengers at East Midlands airport, more than 84 per cent at Birmingham and 75 per cent at Glasgow.