Travelport Ltd., the owner of online travel agencies Orbitz and CheapTickets, agreed to purchase Worldspan for $1.4 billion in cash to acquire technology and new customers.

Worldspan provides electronic ticketing for travel agencies and runs the reservation systems for airlines including Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. The combined company would have $3.5 billion in sales, Travelport spokesman Elliot Bloom said Thursday.

Travelport, owned by private equity firm Blackstone Group, is making the purchase to fend off growing competition in online travel. Consumers are making reservations directly through airlines' and hotels' websites instead of third parties such as Orbitz.

Travelport said it would save about $50 million by combining technology and administrative operations.

"This is a very intelligent acquisition," said Henry Harteveldt, a travel analyst with Forrester Research. "In the long run, it will make Travelport much more compelling and competitive in the travel distribution industry."

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