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China’s Been Holding up the Starwood-Marriott Merger

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Arguably one of the biggest pieces of news to rock the points and miles world this year (and the end of last year) has been the Starwood-Marriott merger saga. Last November, Marriott originally announced its intention to acquire Starwood — and who can forget when Chinese insurance company Anbang came out of left field with a bid for Starwood in March 2016? After some back and forth, Marriott eventually outbid Anbang to acquire Starwood and its beloved SPG program toward the end of March for a proposed $13.6 billion.

Since then, there really hasn’t been much news regarding the finalization of the deal and when the merger would officially take place. But now we have some clue as to what the hold up has been — China. According to Marriott, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce said it needs up to 60 more days to review the purchase. The merger already has gotten approval from more than 40 countries, including the US and the European Union.

The merged Starwood and Marriott brand would become the largest hotel group in the world, and take the title of the largest hotel operator in China. According to a Fortune article, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has blocked only two transactions since 2008 as opposed to 1,447 unconditional clearances since the country introduced anti-monopoly laws. While Marriott had expected the Chinese Ministry of Commerce to complete its review by August 9, this delay will end up pushing the decision back by about two months.

No firm reason has been given as to why the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has requested more time to finish its review, but both Starwood and Marriott say that the merger does not pose any threat to China’s anti-competitive laws. Right now, there’s no reason to believe that China will block the transaction, but we will just have to wait a bit longer to hear the official word and the answer to the question that’s on every Starwood loyalist’s mind: what will happen to the SPG program?

Stay tuned for more details of the Starwood-Marriott merger as they come in.

H/T: LA Times

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