"The Federal Trade Commission today approved a complaint challenging Whole Foods Market, Inc.’s approximately $670 million acquisition of its chief rival, Wild Oats Markets, Inc., and authorized the staff to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in federal district court to halt the deal pending an administrative trial on the merits. According to the complaint, the transaction would violate federal antitrust laws by eliminating substantial competition. “Whole Foods and Wild Oats are each other’s closest competitors in premium natural and organic supermarkets, and are engaged in intense head-to-head competition in markets across the country,” said Jeffrey Schmidt, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition.
It's hard to see how permitting Whole Foods to convert existing Wild Oats into Whole Foods outlets and perhaps close a few dozen redundant stores will deprive foodies of a unique retail experience. The nation's foodies have been salivating at the prospect that Whole Foods would buy out the company and convert the Wild Oats into a Whole Foods. Fresh sardines, luscious tomatoes, and lovingly cured salamis were only a merger away. But not if the FTC has its way.
Whole Foods sees it this way, "All of Whole Foods Market's 11 operating regions will gain stores, with three of its smallest regions gaining critical mass, and Whole Foods Market will gain immediate entry into a significant number of new markets* Whole Foods Market expects to recognize significant synergies through G&A cost reductions, greater purchasing power, increased utilization of support facilities and new team member talent."
There's one final canard in the FTC's argument. The agency argues that if a merger were to go through, Whole Foods would be able to raise prices. But even with Wild Oats—and a gazillion other competitors—in the marketplace, Whole Foods has managed to do a pretty good job of doing that.
This merger should go through and the FTC needs to go on to some real issues. Basically, the FTC needs to get out of the bologna aisle and look into some natural colonic cleansers. Leave it to those damn Republicans....they want to control our every move.