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.

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