9910041

B263183

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

BEFORE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION







In the Matter of

THE KROGER CO.,

a corporation, and

THE JOHN C. GROUB COMPANY, INC.,

a corporation.







Docket No. C-3905







COMPLAINT



Pursuant to the provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act and the Clayton Act, and by virtue of the authority vested in it by said Acts, the Federal Trade Commission ("Commission"), having reason to believe that respondent The Kroger Co. ("Kroger") has entered into an agreement to acquire substantially all of the assets of respondent The John C. Groub Company, Inc. ("Groub"), all subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission, in violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 45; that such acquisition, if consummated, would violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18, and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 45; and that a proceeding in respect thereof would be in the public interest, hereby issues its complaint, stating its charges as follows:





Definition



PARAGRAPH ONE: For the purposes of this complaint, the term "Supermarket" means a full-line retail grocery store with annual sales of at least $2 million that carries a wide variety of food and grocery items in particular product categories, including bread and dairy products; refrigerated and frozen food and beverage products; fresh and prepared meats and poultry; produce, including fresh fruits and vegetables; shelf-stable food and beverage products, including canned and other types of packaged products; staple foodstuffs, which may include salt, sugar, flour, sauces, spices, coffee, and tea; and other grocery products, including nonfood items such as soaps, detergents, paper goods, other household products, and health and beauty aids.





The Kroger Co.



PARAGRAPH TWO: Respondent Kroger is a corporation organized, existing, and doing business under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Ohio, with its office and principal place of business located at 1014 Vine Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.



PARAGRAPH THREE: Respondent Kroger, directly and through Dillon Companies, Inc., and Fred Meyer, Inc., its wholly-owned domestic subsidiaries, is, and at all times relevant herein has been, engaged in the operation of supermarkets in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Kroger and its wholly-owned domestic subsidiaries operate approximately 2,200 supermarkets in these states under the Kroger, Fry's, Dillons, King Soopers, City Markets, Fred Meyer, Smith's Food & Drug Centers, Ralph's, Quality Food Centers, Price Rite, Food 4 Less, Cala, Bell, FoodsCo., and Gerbes trade names. Kroger had approximately $26.57 billion in total United States sales for the fiscal year that ended on December 27, 1997.



PARAGRAPH FOUR: Respondent Kroger is, and at all times relevant herein has been, engaged in commerce as "commerce" is defined in Section 1 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 12, and is a corporation whose business is in or affecting commerce as "commerce" is defined in Section 4 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 44.





The John C. Groub Company, Inc.



PARAGRAPH FIVE: Respondent Groub is a corporation organized, existing, and doing business under and by virtue of the laws of the State of Indiana, with its office and principal place of business located at 900 "A" Avenue East, Seymour, Indiana 47274.



PARAGRAPH SIX: Respondent Groub is, and at all times relevant herein has been, engaged in the operation of supermarkets in Indiana. Groub operates approximately 30 supermarkets under the Jay C, Foods Plus, and Ruler Discount Foods trade names. Groub had $251.8 million in total sales for the fiscal year 1997.



PARAGRAPH SEVEN: Respondent Groub is, and at all times relevant herein has been, engaged in commerce as "commerce" is defined in Section 1 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 12, and is a corporation whose business is in or affecting commerce as "commerce" is defined in Section 4 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 44.





Acquisition



PARAGRAPH EIGHT: On or about October 12, 1998, Groub and Kroger LP I, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kroger, executed a definitive Asset Purchase Agreement under which Kroger will acquire substantially all of the assets of Groub.



Trade and Commerce



PARAGRAPH NINE: The relevant line of commerce (i.e., the product market) in which to analyze the acquisition described herein is the retail sale of food and grocery products in supermarkets.



PARAGRAPH TEN: Supermarkets provide a distinct set of products and services for consumers who desire to one-stop shop for food and grocery products. Supermarkets carry a full line and wide selection of both food and nonfood products (typically more than 10,000 different stock-keeping units ("SKUs")) as well as a deep inventory of those SKUs. In order to accommodate the large number of food and nonfood products necessary for one-stop shopping, supermarkets are large stores that typically have at least 10,000 square feet of selling space.



PARAGRAPH ELEVEN: Supermarkets compete primarily with other supermarkets that provide one-stop shopping for food and grocery products. Supermarkets primarily base their food and grocery prices on the prices of food and grocery products sold at nearby supermarkets. Supermarkets do not regularly price-check food and grocery products sold at other types of stores and do not significantly change their food and grocery prices in response to prices at other types of stores. Most consumers shopping for food and grocery products at supermarkets are not likely to shop elsewhere in response to a small price increase by supermarkets.



PARAGRAPH TWELVE: Retail stores other than supermarkets that sell food and grocery products, such as neighborhood "mom & pop" grocery stores, convenience stores, specialty food stores (e.g., seafood markets, bakeries, etc.), club stores, military commissaries, and mass merchants, do not effectively constrain prices at supermarkets. None of these stores offers a supermarket's distinct set of products and services that enable consumers to one-stop shop for food and grocery products.



PARAGRAPH THIRTEEN: The relevant sections of the country (i.e., the geographic markets) in which to analyze the acquisition described herein are the areas in and near the following cities and towns:



a Columbus, Indiana, and

b. Madison, Indiana.

Market Structure



PARAGRAPH FOURTEEN: The Columbus and Madison, Indiana relevant markets are highly concentrated, whether measured by the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (commonly referred to as "HHI") or by two-firm and four-firm concentration ratios. The acquisition would substantially increase concentration in each market. Kroger and Groub would have a combined market share in the geographic markets of Columbus and Madison of near or greater than 66% and 54%, respectively. The post-acquisition HHIs would be 5,254 in Columbus and 4,262 in Madison.





Entry Conditions



PARAGRAPH FIFTEEN: Entry would not be timely, likely, or sufficient to prevent anticompetitive effects in the relevant markets.





Actual Competition



PARAGRAPH SIXTEEN: Kroger and Groub are actual and direct competitors in and near Columbus and Madison, Indiana.





Effects



PARAGRAPH SEVENTEEN: The effect of the acquisition, if consummated, may be substantially to lessen competition in the relevant line of commerce in the relevant sections of the country in violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18, and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 45, in the following ways, among others:



a. by eliminating direct competition between supermarkets owned or controlled by Kroger and supermarkets owned or controlled by Groub;



b. by increasing the likelihood that Kroger will unilaterally exercise market power; and

c. by increasing the likelihood of, or facilitating, collusion or coordinated interaction,



each of which increases the likelihood that the prices of food, groceries or services will increase, and the quality and selection of food, groceries or services will decrease, in the relevant sections of the country.





Violations Charged



PARAGRAPH EIGHTEEN: The Asset Purchase Agreement between Kroger and Groub, pursuant to which Kroger will acquire substantially all of the assets of Groub, violates Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 45, and the proposed acquisition would, if consummated, violate Section 7 of the Clayton Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 18, and Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, as amended, 15 U.S.C. 45.



WHEREFORE, THE PREMISES CONSIDERED, the Federal Trade Commission on this eighth day of November, 1999, issues its complaint against said respondents.



By the Commission.







Donald S. Clark

Secretary

SEAL: