A green light on Friday would allow the merger to proceed next month, pending the expected approval of MyTravel shareholders and formality of a court hearing on June 18.
It would also suggest a similar outcome for the rival merger between TUI and First Choice, expected within two weeks.
However, sources questioned reports that the EC was looking at each merger individually and was poised to approve the Thomas Cook/MyTravel deal without a longer investigation. An EC consultation document sought views on the impact of both mergers.
“How could the EC deal with one merger and not the other? It is required to take a forward view of the market as a whole,” said one leading analyst.
The EC has the power to refer the matter to UK competition authorities or announce a more in-depth probe. However, a speedy resolution will be welcomed in the board rooms, with redundancies and restructuring beginning without delay.
Former Thomson managing director Chris Mottershead, now chief executive of Travelzest, warned: “It is all about cost reduction. There will be a raft of people going out the door with four [groups] becoming two.”
All four groups have refused to discuss the likely job losses. But Thomas Cook/MyTravel revised its forecast savings upwards to £95 million a year in a statement this week and put the costs of integration at £125 million – much of which is likely to go on paying off staff.
The TUI/First Choice merger is expected to realise £100 million in annual savings.
The axe is likely to fall first on airlines. A source said: “One of the biggest savings will be on aircraft, pilots and crew. Clearly you are looking at redundancies.” Both Thomas Cook and MyTravel said they were awaiting the decision from the EC.
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