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European regulators approve Delta-Northwest deal

ATLANTA - European regulators said Wednesday they have cleared Delta Air Lines Inc.'s proposed acquisition of Northwest Airlines Corp.

The European Commission said in a statement that after examining the operation, it concluded that the transaction would 'not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it.'

Atlanta-based Delta still needs Justice Department approval and the approval of its shareholders and the shareholders at Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest.

Delta announced April 14 its stock-swap deal to acquire Northwest and create the world's largest carrier in terms of traffic.

Delta has hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati, New York and Salt Lake City. It is a member of the SkyTeam alliance and flies to 119 international destinations, including 32 cities in the European Union territory.

Northwest has hubs in Detroit, Memphis, Minneapolis and Tokyo. It is also a member of SkyTeam alliance and flies to 50 international destinations including 15 cities in the European Union territory.

The commission said in its statement that it took into account the fact that Delta and Northwest already cooperate extensively on trans-Atlantic routes with the European SkyTeam member airlines, namely Air France, KLM, CSA Czech Airlines and Alitalia.

It said the two airlines' activities in the scheduled air transport of passengers on trans-Atlantic routes are mainly complementary as they have hubs in different U.S. cities. Most of the overlap activities relate to routes where one party offers direct and the other indirect services, the commission said.

It added that there are only three routes in its territory where both parties offer direct service, namely Amsterdam/Atlanta, Amsterdam/New York and Paris/Detroit.

'The commission has concluded that the present transaction would not raise competition concerns,' the statement said.

European antitrust authorities are also working with U.S. officials to examine how airlines cooperating through SkyTeam and other alliances - OneWorld and Star Alliance - affect the industry. They will report back in mid-2009.

AP Business Writer Aoife White in Brussels contributed to this story.