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Call for probe into Amazon purchase of Whole Foods

REUTERS,

Added 16 July 2017

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WASHINGTON – The top Democrat on the United States House of Representatives’ antitrust subcommittee has voiced concerns about Amazon.com Inc.’s $13.7 billion plan to buy Whole Foods Market Inc. and is pushing for a hearing to look into the deal’s impact on consumers.

The deal announced in June marks the biggest acquisition for the world's largest online retailer.

Amazon has not said what it would do with Whole Foods’ stores and other assets, but analysts and investors worry the deal could upend the landscape for grocers, food delivery services and meal-kit companies.

U.S. Representative David Cicilline requested the hearing on Thursday in a letter to the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and the subcommittee chairman.

Amazon and Whole Foods declined to comment.

Amazon shares closed up 0.1 per cent at $1,001.81. Whole Foods rose 0.3 per cent to $42.10.

“Amazon’s proposed purchase of Whole Foods could impact neighbourhood grocery stores and hardworking consumers across America,” the Rhode Island Democrat said in a statement. “Congress has a responsibility to fully scrutinise this merger before it goes ahead.”

The deal must be approved by U.S. antitrust enforcers, most likely the Federal Trade Commission.

Congress plays no formal role in that process but hearings often highlight the possible impact of deals on consumers. The hearing is unlikely to happen without Republican support.

FTC members are named by the president. A wild card in the review is the view of President Donald Trump, who famously said before his election that Amazon has “a huge antitrust problem”.

Trump was unhappy about coverage of his campaign by the Washington Post, owned by Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos. (Reuters)

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