The Coca-Cola Company has petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to set aside a provision in an order requiring the company, until 2005, to obtain the FTC's approval prior to acquiring any interest in the Dr Pepper brand of soft drinks in the United States. Recently, the FTC adopted a policy under which, with certain exceptions, it no longer routinely includes prior-approval provisions in orders stemming from merger cases and presumes that the public interest requires reopening such provisions in outstanding mergers and making them consistent with the policy.
The petition will be subject to public comment for 30 days, until Nov. 13. Coca-Cola is based in Atlanta, Georgia.
The order at issue resolved nine-year-old litigation that began when the FTC filed charges in federal district court in 1986, alleging that Coca-Cola's plan to acquire a significant competitor, the Dr Pepper Company, would violate antitrust laws by substantially reducing competition and raising consumer prices. The order settled an appeal of a June 1994 Commission order, and requires Coca-Cola, for 10 years, to obtain Commission approval before acquiring:
- any rights to the Dr Pepper or diet Dr Pepper brand in the United States or any brand, name or trademark associated with producing, marketing, selling or distributing these brands of carbonated soft drinks in the United States; or
- any interest in any entity that holds, owns or otherwise controls the Dr Pepper or diet Dr Pepper brand, name or trademark in the United States.
The order also includes certain prior notification requirements that are not addressed in the Coca-Cola petition.
Coca-Cola maintains in its petition that "the possibility of a renewed attempt by Coca-Cola to acquire the Dr Pepper brand falls well below the Commission's threshold of credible risk,'" in part because of other recent acquisitions of and by Dr Pepper and its acquirers.
Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
Copies of the petition and the May 1995 order are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC Docket No. 9207)