Whole Foods to sell stores in FTC accord
Whole Foods is putting 12 Wild Oats stores and one Whole Foods store up for sale in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah.
The Austin, Texas-based company will also sell leases and assets of 19 Wild Oats stores that have closed.
In a statement, Whole Foods chief executive John Mackey said the 13 operating stores will do "business as usual."
Federal regulators had challenged Whole Foods' 2007 acquisition of Boulder, Colo.-based Wild Oats, saying the deal would create a natural foods monopoly.
FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement that selling the stores will "substantially" restore competition that the purchase eliminated.
"As a result of this settlement, American consumers will see more choices and lower prices for organic foods," Leibowitz said in the statement.
Whole Foods and Wild Oats were one another's closest competitors in markets where they overlapped, the FTC said.
Whole Foods sued the FTC in December, claiming the regulator violated its due process rights in the dispute. Whole Foods then refiled the case in January in the US District Court of Appeals in Washington to get an expedited decision. The court later denied that motion.
Once the FTC approves the settlement, which it is expected to do before April 30, Whole Foods plans to take a noncash charge of no more than $19 million for the sale of the stores, which recorded sales of $31 million in the fiscal first quarter of 2009.
Shares of Whole Foods gained 30 cents, or 2.6 percent, to close at $12.08.