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Last days for GeoEye

DigitalGlobe and GeoEye have received antitrust approval from the Justice Department to merge under the DigitalGlobe name, the satellite imaging companies announced today on their web sites.

The Justice Department's Antitrust Division confirmed the approval in a statement:

“The Division analyzed the potential competitive effects of DigitalGlobe’s proposed acquisition of GeoEye. Given DoD’s decision not to exercise its full-year option for GeoEye’s EnhancedView imagery contract, the Division focused on the merger’s potential effects on the commercial customers and concluded that the merger was not anticompetitive,” the agency said.

Earthquake damage to the National Cathedral in Port-au-Prince. Credit: GeoEye

The companies expect to close the deal by Jan. 31.

The nod from the Justice Department's Antitrust Division all but seals the Longmont, Colo. Company’s purchase of its onetime rival GeoEye of Herndon, Va. The Federal Communications Commission and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration must also chime in, but the companies do not expect those agencies to stand in the way of the closing.

Justice approval was a potential hurdle because the combination would leave one commercial satellite company to sell imagery to Google and other mapping services, and to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The merger dance, which will impact hundreds of GeoEye employees in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, was triggered earlier this year when the Obama administration announced it would scale back a 10-year imagery program called Enhanced View. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency was paying for imagery from the companies, and in GeoEye’s case, contributing funds for construction of the firm's next satellite. NGA announced earlier this year it would stop buying services from GeoEye as of Nov. 30, 2012 and keep a $70 million contribution to the new satellite.

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