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Rite Aid Corp. said March 29 that its bid for Albertsons Companies is near the finish line, after clearing the U.S. merger review process.
The transaction, announced last month, won early termination of waiting period requirements under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act, Rite Aid said.
While the deal was expected to go through, the speed of the process is a little surprising given potential antitrust risks, David Balto, a Washington antitrust attorney and former Federal Trade Commission policy director, told Bloomberg Law.
“There were clearly significant overlaps in some metropolitan markets,” Balto said.
Still, given that Rite Aid has been struggling to compete with other pharmacy retail giants, an argument can be made that its merger deal will actually boost competition and benefit consumers overall. The outcome of the review process could be a sign that antitrust regulators under President Donald Trump will be more open to such “efficiency” arguments than they were during the previous administration, according to Balto.
The deal remains subject to other “customary” closing conditions, including a vote by Rite Aid’s stockholders, the company said.
“The expiration of the HSR waiting period is an important step toward completing the proposed transaction with Albertsons which will create a truly differentiated leader in food, health and wellness to meet the evolving needs of customers,” Rite Aid Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Standley said in a statement.
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