BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European regulators may OK Carnival Corp.'s bid for P&O Princess -- and likely without asking Carnival to divest any of its brands in order to gain approval, according to reports from Brussels.

A source close to the investigation echoed the reports from Reuters and the Financial Times, saying the decision from the European Commission could come as early as the end of this week, nearly a month before the EC's self-imposed Aug. 19 deadline.

A regulatory decision on both merger proposals from Carnival and rival suitor Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is expected to follow soon after an announcement from the EC. RCCL's proposed merger with the London-based P&O cleared regulatory approval with the U.K. Competition Commission last month; their deal was not subject to EC scrutiny.

A spokesman from Carnival said: "We have not heard anything official from the Commission at this point."

Royal Caribbean has been protesting Carnival's bid for P&O Princess to the FTC, saying the Carnival deal is "anticompetitive."

If the EC does approve Carnival's bid -- and both deals are approved by the FTC -- P&O Princess shareholders still will have to vote on which company they want to partner with, if either.

Royal Caribbean's chairman and chief executive officer Richard Fain told Travel Weekly that he has been in contact with P&O Princess chief executive Peter Ratcliffe, and that the P&O board of directors continues to recommend the RCCL merger to its shareholders.

Meanwhile, Carnival said last week in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission it will incur a $30 million expense by September, related to the possible P&O Princess acquisition.


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