The US Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) request for a preliminary injunction to halt supermarket chain Kroger‘s proposed acquisition of competitor Albertsons is set for trial on 26 August 2024. 

Reuters reports that Judge Adrienne Nelson of the District Court in Portland, Oregon has set the date and directed both parties to submit a proposed briefing schedule by 15 March. 

In October 2022 the two companies made an agreement in which Kroger would acquire all Albertsons’ outstanding shares for $24.6bn. 

The FTC, which filed a lawsuit in February 2024 to block the merger, argues that the deal would lead to higher grocery prices for millions of Americans. 

The proposal has also been met with intense scrutiny from lawmakers and consumer advocacy groups concerned about potential price increases, job cuts and store closures. 

Despite the legal hurdles, Kroger remains committed to the merger.  

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Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen stated: “We believe this is the best outcome for America’s families.”  

The companies are prohibited from finalising the deal while legal challenges are ongoing. 

The FTC criticises the deal for potentially eradicating the robust competition between Kroger and Albertsons. 

Kroger, which leads the US grocery market in terms of revenue, has countered by highlighting its history of price reductions since 2003, a strategy it plans to continue post-merger.  

Kroger has offered to sell 413 stores and eight distribution centres to C&S Wholesale Grocers to address regulatory concerns and has indicated the possible divesting of 237 further stores – a move the FTC has deemed insufficient. 

In its fiscal year 2023 financial result released in early March 2024, Kroger reported net earnings attributable to the company of $2.16bn, compared to $2.24bn in 2022.