RealTime IT News

Who Can You Antitrust?

The Justice Department reportedly is stepping up its antitrust investigation of Homestore.com Inc. following its Oct. 27 announcement that it plans to acquire Cendant Corp.'s real estate portal move.com in a $761 million deal.

The Wall Street Journal reported in its online edition that investigators have issued a new round of civil subpoenas to the companies, and to rivals.

The move should come as no surprise; the investigation had been widely known and in fact Homestore.com, which also operates HomeBuilder.com, SpringStreet.com and HomeFair.com, mentioned the probe in its press release on the move.com deal.

"We've done our homework," said Stuart Wolff, Homestore.com's chairman and chief executive, at the time. He said then that the company is confident the transaction will be approved.

The market shrugged off the news. Homestore was down 12 cents in early trading at $38.87. There was even good news for the company - Reuters reported today that CS First Boston started coverage of Homestore.com with a buy rating and a $55 price target.

The planned acquisition, if regulators approve, is expected to create the largest marketplace for home and real estate-related products and services on the Internet.

Cendant assets to be integrated into Homestore.com's network of Web sites include move.com, apartment locator site Rent Net, direct marketing company Welcome Wagon and other sites.

Homestore.com's REALTOR.com site also gets exclusive 40-year access to the listings of Cendant's Century 21, Coldwell Banker and ERA real estate franchises.

The Journal said officials at both companies confirmed the subpoenas, but wouldn't comment further.

Justice Department lawyers also have asked online realty rivals to respond to detailed questions on everything from dealings with regional property-listing boards to difficulties selling advertising, the Journal said.