Fri. Jul 12th, 2024

Why Would the US Government Think a Kroger-Albertsons Merger Hurt Grocery Shoppers?

By nr39r Feb28,2024
Why Would the US Government Think a Kroger-Albertsons Merger Hurt Grocery Shoppers

This photograph was taken on Wednesday, June 26, 2019, at a Kroger grocery store in Flowood, Mississippi. The customer is removing her items. On Monday, February 16, 2024, the Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit to prevent a proposed merger between the grocery giants Kroger and Albertsons. The FTC argued that the proposed merger would result in the elimination of competition and would cause prices to increase for millions of people in the United States.(Image courtesy of Rogelio V. Solis, Associated Press)

Kroger and Albertsons, two of the largest grocery chains in the United States, had believed that this year would be the year that they would successfully conclude the greatest supermarket merger in the history of the country. However, their strategy to compete with big-box shops by combining forces is being met with legal challenges that make it appear to be a significantly less plausible course of action, at least in the near future.

Both a federal lawsuit and an administrative complaint were submitted by the United States Federal Trade Commission on Monday. The administrative complaint was filed against Kroger’s $24.6 billion proposal to acquire Albertsons, and the federal lawsuit asked a judge to temporarily halt the merger. This action was initially filed in Oregon, but it was joined by attorneys general from eight different states and the District of Columbia.

Here is all you need to know about the planned merger, including what it could imply for consumers and the reasons why the government of the United States is opposed to it.

WHY IS THE MERGER THAT IS BEING PROPOSED IMPORTANT?

The majority of people in the United States have stuffed a basket at either an Albertsons or a Kroger store, even if the store’s name was displayed on the front sign. There are 2,750 Kroger stores across 35 states and the District of Columbia. Kroger’s headquarters are located in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ralphs, Smith’s, King Soopers, Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less, Mariano’s, Pick ‘n Save, and Harris Teeter are some of the 19 brands that are owned and operated by the firm respectively. There are 2,273 stores owned and operated by Albertsons, which has its headquarters in Boise, Idaho. Safeway, Jewel Osco, Vons, Acme, and Shaw’s are among the fifteen brands that it carries. A total of around 700,000 individuals are employed by Kroger and Albertsons together.

Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago, and the District of Columbia are some of the cities where Kroger and Albertsons stores are currently competing for customers. Other cities include the District of Columbia.

WHAT IMPACT WOULD THE MERGER HAVE ON DEALERS AND CUSTOMERS?

It is anticipated by certain labor unions and consumer advocacy groups that the merger will lead to the closure of stores, which will result in communities having less options for grocery shopping and providing Kroger-Albertsons with fewer incentives to maintain more competitive prices.

“A merger of Kroger and Albertsons would result in fewer grocery stores and higher food prices, with predictable adverse consequences for food and nutrition security for consumers across the country,” said Peter Lurie, president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in a statement applauding the action taken by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Lurie was referring to the fact that the merger would significantly reduce competition within an already consolidated food retail market.

Kroger has stated that the merger will not result in any of their stores closing down. In addition to this, it intends to invest $1.3 billion in the modernization of the current Albertsons locations. On the other hand, in certain locations, stores would be sold to a new proprietor. Kroger and Albertsons came to an agreement to sell 413 stores and eight distribution centers in areas where their operations overlapped in order to allay the concerns of federal authorities regarding the possibility of monopoly.

C&S Wholesale Grocers, a grocery supermarket supplier that also owns the Piggly Wiggly brand, would be the purchaser of the product. On the other hand, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has stated that the proposed divestment deal is “inadequate,” and that the proposal does not include sufficient stores or other resources to recreate the competition that is now present between Kroger and Albertsons.

WHAT IS THE FACT THAT KROGER AND ALBERTSONS WANT TO MERGE?

The agreement to unite Kroger and Albertsons was reached in October of 2022. The companies said that a merger would enable them to better compete with large stores such as Walmart, Costco, and Amazon, which owns Whole Foods. This is due to the fact that they would have more ability to negotiate prices and would be able to save money on distribution and administrative costs. While Walmart now owns 22% of the grocery industry in the United States, Costco controls 6% of the market, according to Ken Goldman, an analyst at J.P. Morgan. Together, they would control approximately 13% of the market.

WHAT IS THE REASON BEHIND THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION’S Objection to the Merger?

In the absence of competition, consumers would be subjected to higher costs, inferior quality, and fewer shopping options, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which asserts that the agreement would destroy the rivalry that currently exists between Kroger and Albertsons. One such illustration was provided by the Attorney General of Colorado in a different complaint that was submitted earlier this month. In the city of Gunnison, Colorado, there are two grocery stores: City Market, which is owned by Kroger, and Safeway, which is owned by Albertsons. Due to the merger, Kroger would be the only chain that operates in this region, and residents of Gunnison would have to travel a distance of sixty-five miles to reach a store that is not owned by Kroger.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if the stores were to merge, consumers would also see fewer bargains because Kroger and Albertsons already employ incentives to draw customers away from retailers that are in direct rivalry with them. There will also be less of an incentive for stores to add or improve their offerings, according to the agency. By way of illustration, when executives at Albertsons noticed that the deli counters of Kroger’s Fred Meyer stores were vacant, they decided to hire additional counter staff for their own stores. In a similar manner, Kroger enhanced its grocery pickup services in certain markets in order to compete with Albertsons.

Consumers also gain from competition at supermarket pharmaceutical counters, according to the Federal Trade Commission. For example, when Kroger stepped out of network with a large pharmaceutical benefits administrator at the end of the previous year, Albertsons offered customers a $75 grocery discount to transfer their prescriptions.

WOULD THE DEAL CERTAINLY END UP RESULTING IN PRICES THAT ARE HIGHER?

The grocery store chain Kroger has stated that it will not do so and that it will invest $500 million to reduce prices across all of its shops once the agreement is finalized. GlobalData, a company that specializes in market analysis, stated that cheap chains such as Aldi and competitors who are cost-conscious such as Walmart would assist in maintaining price control even if Kroger and Albertsons became one.

However, the Federal Trade Commission is not persuaded. FTC researchers conducted a study in 2012 and discovered that when grocery stores consolidated in areas where there was minimal competition, the prices climbed by more than two percent. In markets where there were more grocery stores competing with one another, prices either declined or remained the same.

EXPECTATIONS FOR WORKERS AT KROGER AND ALBERTSONS In the event that…

On the condition that the agreement is finalized, Kroger has pledged to increase pay and benefits by one billion dollars. C&S Wholesale Grocers has stated that it will uphold all collective bargaining agreements with Kroger and Albertsons employees in the event that it acquires QFC, Mariano’s, Carrs, and other locations.

The majority of workers at both companies are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which voted against the merger in the previous year. The union argued that the corporations had not been clear about how the merger will interact with their employees. Despite this, there are some employees who are not against the agreement. Local 555 of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which represents grocery workers in the states of Oregon and Idaho, stated earlier this month that it is in favor of the merger between Kroger and Albertsons because it has faith in C&S to run the shops in its region.

WHAT STATES ARE DIRECTLY AGAINST THE MERGER?

The federal action was filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in conjunction with the attorneys general of the states of Arizona, California, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia. As part of their efforts to prevent the merger from taking place, the attorneys general of Colorado and Washington had earlier filed their own lawsuits.

WHEN WILL A DECISION BE MADE REGARDING THIS ISSUE?

Within fourteen days, Kroger and Albertsons have the opportunity to submit a response to the administrative complaint filed by the FTC. On July 31st, there will be a hearing scheduled. As the complaint makes its way through the legal process of the agency, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is requesting that a federal judge order a temporary injunction that prevents the merger from taking place. Both Kroger and Albertsons have stated that they intend to file an appeal against any decisions that are deemed unfavorable.

All rights reserved by The Associated Press, 2024. The owner retains all rights. It is strictly forbidden to print, broadcast, rewrite, or disseminate any parts of this material.

By nr39r

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