There is a simple explanation for the request to fast-track the retail merger of Thomas Cook, The Cooperative Travel and Midlands Cooperative to the Competition Commission - a desire for more haste.
But it is hard to see precisely how much more haste the request will achieve. The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) was previously due to make a decision on whether to refer the merger to the Competition Commission (CC) by March 10 - 45 working days from the date it received a referral from the European Commission.
It will now make a decision, according to its own guidance rules, within a minimum 10 working days - March 1. But that is a minimum, and the difference between March 1 and March 10 is seven working days.
However, when Thomas Cook made the request yesterday (it was Thomas Cook, let's be clear), the OFT suddenly changed the deadline date for its decision, if there is no fast-track referral, to April 4 - after suspending its deliberations leading to that deadline while in discussion with Thomas Cook and the other parties.
Presumably, it became clear during these discussions that the OFT was of a mind to refer the merger to the CC and there was nothing to be gained by waiting in the hope that it would not. Also, presumably, Thomas Cook and its prospective merger partners were aware that the discussions in themselves were pushing back the OFT deadline for a decision.
Thomas Cook chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa signalled he would seek a fast-track referral in a conference call with investment analysts last week. It was a surprise on two counts. No company has ever used the fast-track process or referred itself to the Competition Commission before, and it is unusual for a chief executive to share such information. The issue reportedly did not come up at the Thomas Cook annual general meeting a few days later.
Fontenla-Novoa and his counterparts at the Co-ops are clearly committed to the merger and there is little doubt it will go ahead. The only question is how much of the merged estate will they be compelled to relinquish in order to proceed.
Perhaps that certainty explains why, at each stage, there appears to have been a degree of surprise that the authorities would show very much interest at all - that the EC was likely to refer the merger to the OFT, and the OFT to the CC.
There may be a fear that the regulatory process will be complicated by government proposals to merge the CC and OFT into a single body, in a form yet to be determined but soon to be announced, as part of Cameron's bonfire of the quangos.
In the circumstances, given either the OFT or CC - or elements of both - are poised to disappear, it would make sense if neither was disposed to demonstrate they are superfluous by deciding of the merger: "You deal with it, no you handle it, but we insist - after you." That may be a complicating factor. However, it is not as though the OFT is in the throes of change at the moment. Nothing has been announced bar the intention.
An end to uncertainty about the future would, undoubtedly, be welcome to many working at the companies poised to merge. It is debilitating to wonder, 'Is there a future here?'
However, by requesting a fast-track referral to the CC, Thomas Cook has exchanged the possibility that the OFT just might OK the merger on March 10 (now postponed to April 4) for the certainty of referral to the CC and an investigation lasting up to six more months from, best hope, March 1.
From here, it is hard to see much gain in this. It looks like the simple explanation comes down to impatience.