US – The proposed USD 24.6 billion merger between Kroger and Albertsons has faced significant legal hurdles as the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and a coalition of states gear up for legal action.

With the non-closure agreement between the FTC and the involved parties set to expire on February 28, reports suggest that legal proceedings may be initiated before this critical deadline.

Bloomberg has reported that both Kroger and Albertsons are actively working to arrange a meeting with the FTC in a last-ditch effort to dissuade the agency from pursuing legal intervention. The outcome of this meeting could significantly impact the trajectory of the proposed merger.

A spokesperson for Kroger emphasized the company’s commitment to ongoing discussions with the FTC and state regulators, stating, “This merger is the best thing for America’s consumers because it will lead to lower prices and more choices on the foods customers need, want, and love.”

The spokesperson further argued that blocking the combination would empower non-unionized retail giants like Walmart, Amazon, and Costco to continue resisting unions, potentially impacting communities negatively.

Kroger asserted its dedication to lowering prices, creating well-paying union jobs, and improving access to fresh food.

Albertsons echoed similar sentiments, expressing its continued collaboration with the FTC. The company asserted that the merger would enhance competition, lower prices, safeguard union jobs, and elevate the overall shopping experience for customers.

Legal challenges have already surfaced, with Colorado and Washington filing lawsuits to thwart the merger.

These actions stem from concerns regarding potential antitrust issues, including fears of price increases for consumers, store closures, and job losses.

The companies, in a recent update, acknowledged the need for additional time to finalize the merger, citing an ongoing FTC investigation as the primary cause for the delay. Notably, the investigation has been a point of contention, adding complexity to the merger process.

In a proactive move last September, Kroger and Albertsons had announced plans to sell 413 stores to C&S Wholesale Grocers.

This divestiture plan was crafted to fulfill commitments made in their original merger agreement, addressing concerns related to antitrust issues.

The plan included extending competitors to new geographies, ensuring that no stores would close because of the merger, maintaining existing collective bargaining agreements, and pledging long-term investments in associates and stores.

As the legal battle intensifies and the FTC’s decision looms, the fate of the Kroger-Albertsons merger hangs in the balance.

The companies remain resolute in their belief that the merger will benefit consumers and the industry, while legal authorities scrutinize potential antitrust implications.

For all the latest fresh produce industry news updates from Africa, the Middle East, and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.