The Federal Trade Commission has granted in part the Nov. 20, 1995 petition of American Stores Company by ending the company's obligation to obtain FTC approval before making certain retail grocery store acquisitions in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, the San Francisco Bay Area, or in a number of other specified towns and cities in California and Nevada. The prior-approval provision was included in a 1988 consent order resolving FTC allegations that American Stores' acquisition of retail grocery stores in parts of California and Nevada violated federal antitrust laws. The Commission has replaced the prior-approval provision with a prior-notice requirement for the specified acquisitions.
American Stores is based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The company previously had petitioned the FTC on July 28 to reopen and set aside entirely the 1988 order, pursuant to the FTC's new prior-approval policy. Under that policy, the Commission no longer routinely includes prior-approval provisions in orders stemming from merger cases, and presumes the public interest requires reopening such provisions in outstanding merger orders to make them consistent with the policy.
The Commission sought public comments on the earlier American Stores petition for 30 days, and received none. American Stores later withdrew that petition on Oct. 27 but refiled the same petition on Nov. 20, with a cover letter indicating that a prior-notification provision would be acceptable. American Stores also asked that the Commission waive a second comment period.
The modified order announced by the Commission today requires American Stores to notify the FTC before acquiring any stores originally covered by the prior-approval requirement (see the order).
In modifying the order, the Commission said it has "determined that the record in this case evidences a credible risk that the respondent could engage in future anticompetitive acquisitions" that, absent the new notification requirement, would not be reported to the FTC under federal pre-merger notification law.
The Commission vote to eliminate the comment period and to reopen and modify the order was 5-0.
Copies of the Commission order reopening and modifying the 1988 consent order, as well as other documents associated with this matter, 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. C-3238)