WASHINGTON — A federal judge here yesterday denied a request by the Federal Trade Commission for a restraining order blocking the merger of Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats. The FTC had claimed that the merger was anticompetitive because the elimination of Wild Oats from the marketplace would allow Whole Foods to raise prices. In February Whole Foods offered to pay $18.50 per share, or nearly $700 million including debt, to acquire Wild Oats, which operates 110 stores across the U.S. During the antitrust investigation, it was revealed that Whole Foods planned to sell off Wild Oats' Henry's and Sun Harvest banners in California and Texas, respectively, and to close another 30 Wild Oats locations. Whole Foods said this week it had not yet finalized plans for store closures.
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