The merger of Thomas Cook, The Co-operative Travel and the Midlands Co-operative has been provisionally approved by the Competition Commission. The CC has decided the joint venture would not lessen competition amongst travel retailers although the merger would create the UK’s largest network of travel agencies, internet business and direct channels. This will include a total of 1,240 shops, of which the Going Places branded outlets will be renamed Co-operative Travel. In a joint statement today the companies said the deal will be completed by the end of this year if the CC fully approves the merger on 16 August. “This announcement is not only great news for Thomas Cook and the Co-operatives, but also for our customers and staff too and we now look forward to bringing the merged business to life. High street retail remains an important distribution channel for package holidays and one that consumers continue to value,” said Manny Fontenla-Novoa, chief executive of the Thomas Cook Group. “We firmly believe in the highly synergistic nature of this deal and the significant opportunities that it offers; this merger is just one part of the plan to strengthen our UK business.” “We’re also sure that when the joint venture launches it will deliver significant benefits for our customers and members thanks to the greater range of holidays and services offered,” added Peter Marks, chief executive of The Co-operative Group.