Close to approval, Google-ITA merger would make Cambridge an R&D hub

Close to approval, Google-ITA merger would make Cambridge an R&D hub

Update: ITA Software today announced its merger with Google has been approved, and said the two companies are working on closing the deal.

Cambridge, Mass. could soon elbow its way into the company of Google Inc.‘s top three research and development site. If Google’s deal to buy ITA Software Inc. for $700 million goes through, Cambridge would rival Seattle as a Google R&D hub.

The Google-ITA merger – which is close to approval by federal regulators, according to a Wall Street Journal report late yesterday – would likely triple the number of Google engineers with boots on the ground here. Google already employs 300-plus in its Cambridge offices; about half are engineers. ITA employs 500-plus, most of them in the engineering department at the behind-the-scenes travel search software company that powers sites like Orbitz.com and Kayak.com.

Currently, Google’s Cambridge presence is a distant fourth: The preponderance of engineers are at Google headquarters in Mountain View, a spokesman said. The next largest site, New York City, employs about 2,000, roughly half of them engineers. Seattle is not far behind in R&D with 800 employees, most of them engineers.

But both Google and ITA are hiring. ITA Software told the Boston Business Journal in February it has 40 open positions right now, most of them in engineering. Google has about 9 open requisitions in Cambridge on its careers site, five of them in technical categories.

Kayak, of Concord, Mass., and cross-town competitor TripAdvisor LLC, both license ITA’s technology to search and combine flights into air travel itineraries and fares. The two have joined a lobbying consortium with several other firms, opposing the Google-ITA merger on grounds that Google, which also provides some travel search referral, could unfairly compromise their business.

However, the Wall Street Journal reported late yesterday that U.S. government regulators are near a pact in which they would allow the deal to go ahead, in exchange for oversight of Google’s operations in travel search. The New York Post had published a similar report, earlier this week.

Read more: Close to approval, Google-ITA merger would make Cambridge an R&D hub | Boston Business Journal

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