20 states join U.S. antitrust probe of Family Dollar merger

Fri Jan 9, 2015 6:00pm EST
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By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some 20 state attorneys general have joined the federal antitrust investigation of competing bids by Dollar General Corp (DG.N: Quote) and Dollar Tree Inc (DLTR.O: Quote) to buy Family Dollar Stores Inc FDO.N, a development that potentially complicates the companies' efforts to win U.S. approval for a deal.

The attorneys general concern focuses on the likelihood that the loss of one of the chains would lead to higher prices for discount store customers, many of whom are poor, said two sources who spoke privately because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Family Dollar, the No. 2 U.S. discount retailer, had previously disclosed that state attorneys general were involved in the federal investigation but gave no details.

The 20 states looking at this deal are similar in number to those looking at Comcast Corp’s (CMCSA.O: Quote) plan to buy Time Warner Cable Inc TWC.N and Sysco Corp’s (SYY.N: Quote) bid for US Foods Inc [USFOO.UL], both of which are high-profile deals.

Florida is a member of the multi-state group, which joined the Federal Trade Commission to determine if the deals were legal under antitrust law, according to Whitney Ray, spokesman for Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Vermont has also joined, said Jill Abrams, an assistant attorney general in the state. Iowa is also in the group, according to a source who was not authorized to speak to reporters.

Indiana is looking into the mergers, but a spokesperson declined to say if it had formally joined the group.

The presence of the state attorneys general gives the FTC additional lawyers to look at the case, much-needed knowledge of how the merging companies function in the state and how the deal would affect a state’s consumers, said Allen Grunes, an antitrust attorney with the Konkurrenz Group in Washington, DC.   Continued...

A Family Dollar store is seen in Chicago, June 25, 2012.  REUTERS/Jim Young