- A Senate antitrust panel will hold a hearing next month on the Kroger-Albertsons merger focused on how the merger could impact competition in the grocery industry, according to a Tuesday press release from Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
- Klobuchar and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, the chairwoman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, said in a statement they have “serious concerns about the proposed transaction.”
- Along with the Senate panel, Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont separately called on the Biden administration to reject the proposed $24.6 billion merger, which is drawing intense antitrust scrutiny.
The Senate panel will add further close inspection of the supermarket mega merger, which is already expected to draw antitrust scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission. An exact date has yet to be announced for the Senate panel.
Separately, Klobuchar and Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Cory Booker of New Jersey reached out to the FTC, urging the agency to probe the potential anti-competitive impacts of the deal.
“As you are aware, the grocery industry has become increasingly consolidated,” the three Democrats wrote in the letter. “When Albertson’s merged with Safeway in 2015, the FTC found that the merger was likely to harm competition in 130 separate markets and required the company to sell more than 150 stores. Given the increases in food prices recently, we question whether the divestitures that the agency secured when approving that deal were sufficient, especially since Albertson’s was allowed to buy back many of the stores that the FTC required it to sell.”
The letter also asked the agency to include findings from its investigation of grocery prices and food availability, which it launched last fall, into its scrutiny of the Kroger-Albertsons merger.
The concerns raised by Lee and Klobuchar are not surprising, as both Klobuchar and Lee have backed legislation that would boost the amount of money companies pay for merger reviews that would be used to fund antitrust enforcement, Bloomberg reported.
I’m calling on the FTC to block this deal. Big grocery chains like Kroger and Albertsons are already gouging families with inflated prices. More mergers and less competition would mean even higher prices—and layoffs for employees. https://t.co/3jlEc533aL— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 19, 2022
At a time when food prices are soaring as a result of corporate greed, it would be an absolute disaster to allow Kroger, the 2nd largest grocery store in America, to merge with Albertsons, the 4th largest grocery store in America. The Biden Administration must reject this deal.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) October 14, 2022
Kroger announced the merger between the two companies on Friday. The companies aim to close the deal in early 2024 but it is expected to undergo scrutiny by the FTC. Kroger has positioned the merger as a move that would lower food prices, drive innovation and improve the combined company’s profitability.
“We believe we have a clear path to achieve regulatory approval with divestitures,” Kroger Chief Financial Officer Gary Millerchip said during an investor call on Friday.
The Senate antitrust panel often holds hearings on major deals and makes recommendations to the FTC but does not have authority over merger reviews, Bloomberg noted.