FTC Request for Stay of Whole FoodsWild Oats Merger Nixed by Judge

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Federal Trade Commission Federal on Friday filed for an appeal of a federal judge’s decision to allow Whole Foods Market, Inc. to purchase its rival Wild Oats Markets, Inc., but its request for a stay pending the result of that appeal was reportedly denied by the same judge who handed down the pro-merger decision.

The FTC is seeking to block the $565 million deal on antitrust concerns. Whole Foods has argued that the deal won’t hurt consumers because it and Wild Oats also compete with conventional supermarkets that are selling more and more organic products.

Last Thursday, a U.S. District Judge rejected the FTC's arguments, and thus denied the agency’s request to block the transaction. The legal basis for the judge's ruling remains under seal because it includes trade secrets.

Whole Foods said last week that it had agreed to the FTC’s request not to close the transaction before noon today, but said that its might close the deal with Wild Oats after noon if no stay had been granted.

In a statement, Whole Foods' attorney Paul T. Denis of Dechert LLP said, "We have reviewed Judge Friedman's 93-page opinion supporting his denial of the FTC’s request for a preliminary injunction. The opinion is firmly grounded in both the facts and the law, and provides a detailed analysis of 'what is really happening in the marketplace.' We are confident that the merger will be allowed to proceed, which will benefit the customers, vendor partners, shareholders and communities of Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats Markets."

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