Whole Foods plans to resist FTC move to halt Wild Oats merger

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has advised Whole Foods Market Inc that it will file a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to block the proposed acquisition of Wild Oats Markets Inc. The FTC also has advised Whole Foods that it will ask the court to enter a temporary restraining order that would prohibit the company from completing its acquisition until the court has resolved the FTC's request for a preliminary injunction.

John Mackey, chairman and chief executive officer of Whole Foods, said, "We are very disappointed by this decision, and we intend to vigorously challenge the FTC in court."

The FTC's challenge is based on its contention that the relevant antitrust product market is limited to natural and organic food stores and excludes other supermarkets. Whole Foods believes the FTC's position is without basis and contrary to its position in past merger reviews, where its definition of supermarkets has included conventional supermarkets as well as Whole Foods and Wild Oats.

Whole Foods entered into a merger agreement Feb 21, 2007, with Wild Oats, making a tender offer to purchase all the outstanding shares of Wild Oats at a purchase price of $18.50 per share in cash.

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