Will the winner be...Royal Caribbean? Or Carnival Corporation? Could be either as in a surprise late-Friday-afternoon announcement, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission finally gave its approval. To both parties in pursuit of P&O Princess -- Royal Caribbean, which wants to create a dual-listed company combining the two and Carnival, which has made a hostile offer.
The resulting approval of both potential deals itself wasn't a surprise
(just its late-in-the-week, not to mention late-in-the-day, timing)-- word has been leaking out for months that the FTC would give Carnival and Royal Caribbean/P&O Princess the go-ahead. But it was a close call, in the end, with the final decision coming down to a 3 -2 vote.
In a nutshell, the explanation forthcoming from the FTC reads as follows: "After an extensive investigation, we have concluded, as did our counterparts in Europe . . . that the facts do not warrant enforcement action."
Next steps? On Monday, look for statements from all cruise lines involved (they must have been caught off guard Friday when the FTC's "closed investigation" decision was handed down), offering varying self-congratulatory interpretations of the decision. More importantly, the real next step is going to be a vote by shareholders of P&O Princess -- in favor of either Royal Caribbean's friendly partnership or Carnival's hostile acquisition. It's anticipated to occur before the end of 2002 and, as always, Cruise Critic will keep you posted.