Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Carnival Princess Bid Faces Rough US Seas

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Carnival Princess Bid Faces Rough US Seas

Article excerpt


HAS Carnival rammed the European Commission amidships?

Until recently, it looked as if Competition Commissioner Mario Monti planned to scupper the US cruise line's bid for P&O Princess unless it made major disposals.

But now the Commission has changed its tune and seems willing to let Carnival's bid through on the nod. Why the change of heart? Most observers think the recent legal defeat Monti suffered at the hands of MyTravel, the former Airtours, prompted him to change his mind to avoid the risk of a further legal challenge.

His courage apparently came unstuck when Micky Arison, Carnival's assertive chairman, suggested the Commission might face another lawsuit if it blocked his bid. Monti's fig leaf for the volte-face is that he is falling behind the relatively relaxed view the British authorities took of the cruise market when they cleared Royal Caribbean's rival bid for Princess this year.

The decision, which may be announced this week, is on the face of it good news for Princess shareholders. They still have two bids to consider rather than just one. But the biggest regulatory hurdle is yet to come in the US. It is far from clear that the regulators there will fall behind Monti and nod both deals through.

They have their own Airtours experience to brood on: the GEHoneywell case.

Add to this the fact that Royal Caribbean will doubtless be lobbying at full tilt against Carnival.

Its biggest nightmare would be if Arison won the day. Carnival may have seen off Monti, but Princess shareholders still face a long uncertain voyage before they get the auction they crave.

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