WASHINGTON — A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals here yesterday reversed a lower court’s decision that allowed Whole Foods to acquire Wild Oats, but it was not clear what the net impact of the ruling would be since the two chains have become well-integrated during the past year. The appeals court ruled that U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman did not properly consider the Federal Trade Commission’s position that Whole Foods and Wild Oats were narrowly competing for the same core “market” of organic and natural customers when he denied the FTC’s request for an injunction to block the deal. One of three judges disagreed, saying that “the record contains insufficient evidence” that such a market exists and that the deal would allow Whole Foods to raise prices. According to reports, Whole Foods said it was “disappointed in the decision” and that it would ask for a review by the full appeals court.
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