The Federal Trade Commission late Friday issued a consent order allowing for the completion of the Ahold-Delhaize merger, subject to sales of 81 U.S. stores to allay antitrust concerns.
The consent is the final step in the $29 billion merger of the European supermarket operators, who are expected to close their deal Saturday and begin trading as a combined entity on Monday.
Ahold and Delhaize announced agreements last week to sell 86 stores to seven buyers. The FTC list of required divestitures did not include one of the seven Hannaford stores to be sold to Big Y; and only 18 of the 22 Food Lion locations going to Supervalu and its Shop n' Save operators. Christopher Brand, a spokesman for Ahold, told SN Friday the additional stores were included "as part of the negotiations with buyers in order to reach a package deal."
The additional stores in the deals were a Hannaford located in West Peabody, Mass.; and Food Lions in Smithburg, Md.; Greencastle, Pa.; Hedgesville, W. Va.; and Kearneysville, W. Va.
The FTC complaint said the combination of Ahold and Delhaize would trigger anticompetitive issues in 46 markets. Using the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, the FTC said the merger would reduce the number of meaningful supermarket competitors from two to one in three relevant geographic markets, three to two in 14 relevant geographic markets, four to three in 18 relevant geographic markets, five to four in 10 relevant geographic markets, and seven to six in one relevant geographic market.
The commission vote to issue the complaint and accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 3-0.
The FTC said the agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning Friday and continuing through Aug. 22, after which the commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final.
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