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FTC intervenes in CoStar acquisition of LoopNet

The Federal Trade Commission placed some conditions on a deal that would merge two of the largest commercial real estate listing services in the country.

CoStar (CSGP) said last week it hopes to acquire LoopNet (LOOP) by April 30.

According to a consent order filed by the FTC Thursday, the $860 million deal would be anticompetitive because both firms are the only two nationwide providers of such a listing service.

The agency forced CoStar to sell LoopNet interest in Xceligent, another commercial real estate listing and data firm. According to the consent order, DMG Information, a subsidiary of the British media company Daily Mail & General Trust will buy Xceligent and grow it.

DMGI will also buy the URL “commercialsearch.com” as part of the transfer.

CoStar must also release noncompete provisions and allow its customers to terminate longer-term contracts early if they wish, and they cannot impede them from moving to Xceligent for five years.

CoStar or LoopNet can only offer clients core products on a stand-alone basis, meaning no one can be required to buy one product if it purchases another, for three years after the merger, according to the consent order.

“The listings databases and information services provided by these companies are critical to their customers in the commercial real estate industry,” said Richard Feinstein, director of the FTC bureau of competition. “By maintaining Xceligent as an independent competitor and ensuring Xceligent’s ability to grow and expand, the FTC’s settlement order will foster continued competition in these markets.”

The FTC said in the consent order the deal would restrict brokers, lenders and investors who use a variety of databases and listing sites to make better-informed decisions about asking prices and deals.

Combined, both CoStar and LoopNet boast more than 2.3 million listings. The nearest competitor would be Xceligent, which covers 33 metro areas.



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