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The Federal Trade Commission filed an administrative complaint alleging that Altria Group, Inc. and JUUL Labs, Inc. entered a series of agreements, including Altria’s acquisition of a 35% stake in JUUL, that eliminated competition in violation of federal antitrust laws. According to the complaint, this series of agreements involved Altria ceasing to compete in the U.S. market for closed-system electronic cigarettes in return for a substantial ownership interest in JUUL, by far the dominant player in that market. In an initial decision announced on Feb. 24, 2022, Chief Administrative Law Judge D. Michael Chappell dismissed the antitrust charges in the complaint.
The Federal Trade Commission authorized a lawsuit in federal court to block the proposed merger between virtual reality (VR) giant Meta and Within Unlimited, the VR studio that markets Supernatural, a leading VR fitness app. Formerly known as Facebook Inc., Meta sells the most widely used VR headset, operates a widely used VR app store, and already owns many popular VR apps, including Beat Saber, reportedly one of the best-selling VR apps of all time, which it markets for fitness use. The agency alleges that Meta’s proposed acquisition of Within would stifle competition and dampen innovation in the dynamic, rapidly growing U.S. markets for fitness and dedicated-fitness VR apps. A federal court complaint and request for preliminary relief was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to halt the transaction.
FTC Approves Final Order to Protect South Carolina and Alabama Markets from Anticompetitive Gasoline Terminal Deal
The Federal Trade Commission required ARKO Corp. and its subsidiary GPM to roll back anticompetitive provisions of their acquisition of 60 Express Stop retail fuel outlets from Corrigan Oil Company last year. The complaint alleged that as originally proposed, the agreement not to compete that ARKO and GPM required Corrigan to sign as part of the acquisition harmed customers in local retail gasoline and retail diesel fuel markets throughout Michigan and Ohio. The order required them to amend a non-compete agreement they imposed on Corrigan, agree to obtain prior approval from the Commission before acquiring retail fuel assets under certain circumstances, and return to Corrigan five retail fuel outlets, among other provisions. On Aug. 9, 2022, the Commission announced the final consent agreement in this matter.
FTC Approves Final Order Protecting Pet Owners from Private Equity Firm’s Anticompetitive Acquisition of Veterinary Services Clinics
The Federal Trade Commission imposed strict limits on JAB Consumer Partners’ future acquisitions of specialty and emergency veterinary clinics as a condition of JAB’s proposed $1.1 billion acquisition of specialty and emergency veterinary services provider SAGE Veterinary Partners, LLC. The Commission also alleged that the acquisition was likely to be anticompetitive in three geographic markets, ordering divestitures for various types of veterinary care in and around Austin, Texas, in and around San Francisco, California, and in and between Oakland, Berkeley, and Concord, California, and it ordered divestitures in these market. On Aug. 5, 2022, the Commission announced the final consent agreement in this matter.
FTC Approves Final Order Preserving Competition for Development and Marketing of Steroid Injectable Drug
As a condition of Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC’s $375 million acquisition of generic drug services company Custopharm, Inc., the Federal Trade Commission required Custopharm’s parent company, private equity fund Water Street Healthcare Partners, LLC to retain and transfer Custopharm’s assets related to the corticosteroid drug triamcinolone acetonide, or TCA, to another company Water Street owns, Long Grove Pharmaceuticals, LLC. According to the complaint, absent a remedy, Hikma likely would have stopped developing its injectable TCA product, forestalling the increased price competition it would have brought to the market. Thus without this remedy, the acquisition likely would have harmed future competition in the U.S. market for injectable triamcinolone acetonide.
FTC Marks One-Year Anniversary of Government-Wide initiative to Promote Competition in the American Economy
The Federal Trade Commission authorized an administrative complaint and a suit in federal court to block the acquisition of Saint Peter’s Healthcare System by RWJBarnabas Health, or RWJ, which is one of the largest hospital systems in New Jersey. The complaint alleges that in Middlesex County, in the central part of the state, the acquisition will harm competition for inpatient general acute care services, which are a broad range of essential medical and surgical diagnostic and treatment services that require an overnight hospital stay. The FTC’s federal court suit seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the deal and maintain the status quo while the agency pursues an administrative trial on the merits of the case. On June 14, 2022, the parties announced that they had abandoned the transaction.
FTC Approves Final Order Requiring Prince International Corp. and Ferro Corp. to Sell Off Three Facilities amid Concerns that Deal would Increase Concentration in North American Market for Porcelain Enamel Frit
The Federal Trade Commission has required Prince International Corp. and Ferro Corp. to divest three facilities used to make porcelain enamel frit, glass enamel, and forehearth colorants, as a condition of Prince’s parent company – American Securities Partners VII, L.P. – acquiring competitor Ferro Corp. for $2.1 billion. According to the complaint, the acquisition as proposed likely would allow the merged firm to unilaterally raise prices for porcelain enamel frit in the North American market, and for forehearth colorants in the world market. It also would eliminate Prince as an independent competitor in the world market for glass enamel, increasing the likelihood of coordination between the merged firm and its largest competitor, Fenzi Holdings SPV S.p.A. On July 5, 2022, the Commission announced the final consent agreement in this matter.
FTC Approves Final Order Protecting Patients Who Rely on Medical Instruments Used in Sinus Procedures
The Federal Trade Commission required Medtronic, Inc. to divest a key subsidiary of Intersect ENT, Inc. as a condition of acquiring Intersect. Under the FTC consent decree, Instersect’s Fiagon subsidiary, which makes ear, nose, and throat navigation systems and balloon sinus dilation products, will be sold to Hemostasis, LLC. According to the complaint, without this divestiture, the acquisition would pose a threat to future competition in the United States for both ENT navigation systems and balloon sinus dilation products. On June 30, 2022, the Commission announced the final consent agreement in this matter.
FTC Takes Second Action Against JAB Consumer Partners to Protect Pet Owners from Private Equity Firm’s Rollup of Veterinary Services Clinics
The Federal Trade Commission imposed strict limits on JAB Consumer Partners’ future acquisitions of specialty and emergency veterinary clinics as a condition of JAB’s proposed $1.65 billion acquisition of VIPW, LLC, the parent of Ethos, an owner and operator of specialty and emergency veterinary clinics. The Commission alleged that the acquisition was likely to be anticompetitive in four geographic markets, ordering divestitures for various types of veterinary care in and around Richmond, Virginia, in and around the Washington DC Metro Area, particularly for customers to the southeast in Virginia and Maryland, in and around Denver, Colorado, and in and around downtown San Francisco, California.
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