Biden Admin Sues To Block Massive Grocer Merger In Latest Antitrust Crackdown

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Will Kessler Contributor
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The Biden administration announced Monday it was filing a lawsuit to block the proposed merger of grocers Kroger Company and Albertsons Companies, Inc., claiming the deal is anticompetitive.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued to stop the $24.6 billion acquisition, alleging that there is fierce competition between Kroger and Albertsons that would disappear in a merger, lowering product quality while also raising prices, according to a press release from the FTC. The Biden administration, through both the FTC and the Department of Justice, has pursued multiple suits to block massive mergers during the president’s term, and also has sought to break up what they argue are monopolies like Google and Amazon. (RELATED: New Drug Prices Spiked In 2023 As Biden Admin Seeks To Keep Costs Down)

“This supermarket mega merger comes as American consumers have seen the cost of groceries rise steadily over the past few years,” Henry Liu, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in the release. “Kroger’s acquisition of Albertsons would lead to additional grocery price hikes for everyday goods, further exacerbating the financial strain consumers across the country face today. Essential grocery store workers would also suffer under this deal, facing the threat of their wages dwindling, benefits diminishing, and their working conditions deteriorating.”

The two grocery stores first considered negotiating a merger in October 2022, with the acquisition expected to make them a “supermarket titan.” The proposed deal would outdo the previous largest U.S. supermarket deal from 2006, when a group of investment firms, including Supervalu and CVS Health Corp., bought Albertsons for around $9.8 billion.

“The FTC’s decision makes it more likely that America’s consumers will see higher food prices and fewer grocery stores at a time when communities across the country are already facing high inflation and food deserts,” a Kroger spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “In fact, this decision only strengthens larger, non-unionized retailers like Walmart, Costco and Amazon by allowing them to further increase their overwhelming and growing dominance of the grocery industry.”

If the merger was to be approved, the combined Kroger and Albertsons would operate more than 5,000 stores across 48 states, employing 700,000 people, according to the FTC. The two supermarkets are direct competitors. Kroger is currently the second largest U.S. food retailer while Albertsons is the fourth, according to Axios.

“Albertsons Cos. merging with Kroger will expand competition, lower prices, increase associate wages, protect union jobs, and enhance customers’ shopping experience,” an Albertsons spokesperson told the DCNF. “If the Federal Trade Commission is successful in blocking this merger, it would be hurting customers and helping strengthen larger, multi-channel retailers such as Amazon, Walmart and Costco — the very companies the FTC claims to be reining in — by allowing them to continue increasing their growing dominance of the grocery industry.”

The FTC, under the helm of Lina Khan, has pursued a number of top companies for anticompetitive practices, including Amazon, which it sued in September 2023 claiming that the company exhibited a pattern of illegal conduct equating to a monopoly.

A federal judge in July 2023 denied a motion from the FTC seeking to block a $68.7 billion merger of Microsoft and Activision. A judge in June 2021 dismissed an antitrust complaint from the FTC toward Facebook over complaints that it has a monopoly over personal social networking services.

The FTC deferred the DCNF to the press release.

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