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Hearing to decide next step in Kroger, Albertsons merger set for August

Oregon case would block the merger while the FTC conducts an in-house hearing

A hearing on the Federal Trade Commission’s request for a preliminary injunction seeking to block the planned Kroger, Albertsons merger has been set to begin on Aug. 26, nearly two years after agreement was first announced.

Meanwhile, a separate, private antitrust lawsuit filed on behalf of shoppers was shelved until after U.S. District Judge Adrienne Nelson in Portland, Ore., rules on the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction, or the FTC drops that effort, according to a report on The retailers had requested that the private antitrust lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, be delayed until after the FTC hearing.

As previously reported, the FTC last month sued to block Kroger’s proposed $24.6 billion acquisition of Albertsons, citing the potential for reduced competition in many markets, which the FTC said could harm both consumers and workers. The agency was joined in the suit by attorneys general from eight states and the District of Columbia.

The injunction would prevent the two companies from merging while the FTC conducts an in-house challenge, which would be overseen by an administrative law judge at the agency. The FTC had previously set a July 31 date for an evidentiary hearing in that case to begin. That hearing would take place in Washington, D.C.

For the Portland hearing, both sides must file a proposed briefing schedule by this Friday, according to a Reuters report.

If Nelson grants the preliminary injunction, it could cause Kroger and Albertsons to abandon the merger effort because of the delays it would trigger, according to some reports.

A spokesperson for the FTC declined to comment on the timing of the August hearing, and neither Kroger nor Albertsons could not be reached for comment.

Both Kroger and Albertsons have issued statements in support of the merger, which would combine the two largest traditional supermarket operators in the country and create a network of more than 4,000 stores.

Attorneys in the shopper-led antitrust lawsuit in California, meanwhile, have objected to the delay of their case, arguing that if the FTC abandons its challenge, the two companies could merge immediately, according to a report on Law360.

Kroger and Albertsons have also challenged the right of shoppers to try to block the merger, the report said.

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