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Judge OKs Whole Foods deal to acquire Wild Oats

August 17, 2007|From Bloomberg News

Whole Foods Market Inc.'s $565-million purchase of Wild Oats Markets Inc. doesn't violate federal antitrust law and can proceed, a federal judge ruled Thursday, allowing the two largest U.S. natural foods grocers to combine.

U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman declined to grant the Federal Trade Commission's request for a preliminary injunction against the transaction.

Whole Foods agreed to acquire Wild Oats in February. The FTC sued in June, claiming consumers would be harmed by higher prices and decreased competition.

The grocer will now own its largest competitor as it seeks to lure customers back from more conventional rivals such as Safeway Inc. and Wegmans Food Markets Inc. that are selling more natural products.

Shares of Whole Foods, based in Austin, Texas, climbed $2.28, or 5.5%, to $43.45 in after-hours trading. It fell 33 cents to $41.17 in regular trading. Boulder, Colo.-based Wild Oats leaped $2.89, or 19%, to $18.10 in late trading after closing at $15.21, down 21 cents.

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