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Kroger, Albertsons sound off on negative comments over pending merger

It appears the FTC will not make a decision on suing to block the deal until next year, according to reports

A recent listening session about the pending Kroger, Albertsons merger was filled with misleading information, according to an Albertsons spokesperson.

Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser hosted the hour-long meeting in Denver, where several store workers and community members spoke out against the merger, but no one voiced support for the combining of the two companies, according to The Colorado Sun.

As previously reported, Kroger and Albertsons last year agreed to merge in a $24.6 billion deal that could close next year, pending FTC approval. The two companies have reached an agreement to sell off 413 stores to C&S Wholesale Grocers to satisfy antitrust concerns, but opposition to the deal remains strong among some state attorneys general and at the United Food & Commercial Workers Union, which cites potential store closures and job losses.

“It was unfortunate that yet another listening session gave such a prominent platform to blatant mistruths about the merger,” a spokesperson for Albertsons told Supermarket News. “Albertsons Cos. merging with Kroger will expand competition, lower prices, protect union jobs, and enhance customers’ shopping experience in Denver and across the country.”

“This merger would also ensure that our neighborhood supermarkets, some of which have been serving communities for over 100 years, can better compete with larger non-union retailing giants such as Walmart and Amazon,” the spokesperson said.

A Kroger spokesperson offered a similar assessment.

“Only non-unionized retailers, like Walmart and Amazon, will benefit if this merger is blocked,” they said. “In fact, Kroger joining with Albertsons will mean lower prices for customers, secure union jobs, and more food directed to hungry families, with 10 billion meals committed to people in need across America by 2030.”

At the Denver listening session, Khan and Weiser heard from store workers who had been impacted by the previous merger of Safeway and Albertsons, as well as from an employee of a local meat-packing company, who said the merger could reduce the market for her company’s products.

Recent reports have shone a light on both sides of the proposed merger. 

The International Center for Law & Economics last month pointed out in a white paper that the FTC has in the past 35 years approved almost all grocery industry mergers, provided the two companies divest certain stores in markets where they both operate.

At the same time, critics of the deal have been highlighting the outcome of the 2015 Safeway, Albertsons merger, in which regional retailer Haggen acquired 146 stores, only to file bankruptcy within a year when it was unable to operate them successfully. John Marshall, a financial analyst working with the UFCW, recently shared his research with the FTC, according to reporting by the Journal-News in Butler County, Ohio.

Marshall argues that like the companies that financed the Haggen acquisition, C&S might not be financially incentivized to operate the acquired stores successfully, given that the real estate value might be worth more than the purchase price.

In any case the FTC might not decide on whether it will sue to block the deal before next year, Khan told local reporters at the Denver event.

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