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Scoop: FTC unlikely to weigh in on Kroger-Albertsons before February

Illustration of an Albertsons' grocery bag inside of a Kroger's bag.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The Federal Trade Commission isn't likely to decide until February on whether to challenge Kroger's proposed $25 billion tie-up with Albertsons, a source close to the FTC's thinking says.

Why it matters: It looks like the grocery mega-merger is on hold for at least a while longer.

Meanwhile, the Washington state attorney general is expected to file a lawsuit to block the proposed merger as soon as Thursday afternoon, Bloomberg reported.

Details: The FTC has a timing agreement with Kroger and Albertsons that expires at some point in February, the source says.

  • A lawyer representing Kroger said at an Ohio court hearing that the companies were in talks with the FTC to push out a previously established Jan. 17 deadline.
  • It will also take time for the FTC to potentially prepare a lawsuit, the source adds.

Between the lines: The source hints that the deal structure as it stands — even if Kroger parts with up to 650 stores or the maximum number allowed under the agreement — is still not palatable to the FTC.

Yes, but: A second source familiar with the situation says that it is uncertain whether Kroger and Albertsons will push to close the deal before February.

  • The source went on to say, citing previous statements by Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen, that the acquirer is prepared to litigate in the event the FTC opposes the deal.

The FTC and Albertsons declined to comment. Kroger did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with information about Washington state's reported plans to sue to block the merger.

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