business news in context, analysis with attitude

The US District Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia yesterday put a temporary hold on Whole Foods’ proposed $565 million acquisition of Wild Oats, but said that the move was only to give it more time to consider the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) arguments against the deal. The three-judge panel said that the hold "should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits" of the case.

Whole Foods has until tomorrow to respond to the FTC request for a stay.

A federal judge ruled last week that Whole Foods could go ahead with its acquisition of Wild Oats, refusing to grant the FTC a temporary injunction that would have stopped the deal from taking place. The FTC then asked the appellate court to stay the ruling pending its filing of an appeal.

The FTC opposes the deal on the grounds that it would diminish competition in the marketplace and result in increased prices and fewer options for consumers; the government argument is that Whole Food and Wild Oats are the biggest players in a distinct natural/organic retailing business. The two retailers, on the other hand, argue that their companies simply occupy one specific niche in the much larger supermarket industry, and that there is plenty of competition for the consumer’s food dollar in natural and organic categories.
KC's View:
I’ve commented on this story enough. Let’s see how it finally plays out.