US Airways-United merger review drags on |

US Airways-United merger review drags on

First, the target was year-end 2000. Then, it was April 2.

Now, it’s anybody’s guess when the merger of US Airways into United Airlines will be completed, said company and government sources Tuesday.

The federal review of the $11.6 billion deal has taken longer than anticipated. The U.S. Department of Justice has been combing the combination for possible violations of antitrust law since last summer.

‘I don’t think (approval) will come in the next 30 days, and it could be more like 60 days,’ said Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey yesterday.

‘That’s my speculation because I understand the Justice Department has not completed their review process,’ Roddey added.

United and US Airways said they are still answering queries from the agency.

‘There is no new date out there,’ said United spokeswoman Susanna Leyva. ‘At this time, we are working very cooperatively with the Department of Justice.

The task of government antitrust lawyers grew more complicated in January, when United agreed to sell US Airways assets worth billions, including its East Coast shuttle between Washington, New York and Boston, to American Airlines.

The review of the deal, which was announced last May, also may be dragging due to the change of administrations. President Bush’s replacement for the Clinton administration’s longtime chief antitrust enforcer, assistant attorney general Joel Klein, has not yet been named.

‘There is no timetable,’ said Gina Talamon, a Justice Department spokeswoman. ‘Our investigation is continuing.’

If the Justic Department finds the merger breaks antitrust laws, the agency could sue to block the deal. That decision has not yet been made.

‘Justice lawyers are the ones that have the big stick,’ said Gary Kaplan, an antitrust and information technology attorney at Reed Smith in Pittsburgh. ‘But they first would have to challenge the deal in court, and then the court has the final word.’

United and US Airways promised on March 6 to give the Justice Department 21 days’ notice before they would close their deal. The companies have not done so, and spokespersons for each would not comment whether the merger partners would set a deal-closing date without first receiving the Justice Department’s blessing.

Talamona’s terse response: ‘They can say whatever they want to say.’

‘It’s important to note this is a process of negotiation, a very complex series of negotiations,’ said Kaplan.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.