Two national grocery store chains, Albertsons and Kroger, shared announcements about their pending merger Tuesday, promising no store closures or “frontline” layoffs in a statement from store officials.
It’s unclear what prompted the media push this week, as the $24.6 billion merger, which is strongly opposed by the stores’ unions, has remained under review by the Federal Trade Commission since December.
Albertsons and Krogers did not respond to questions or a request for comment Tuesday.
After the deal was announced in October, the FTC issued its “second request” for information about the deal.
A second request indicates the agency is taking a much closer look at something, according to Douglas Farrar, spokesman for the agency, in a brief phone interview Tuesday. Farrar added he was speaking in general terms regarding a second request, as the FTC does not generally comment on any of its pending actions or investigations.
The FTC has the power to condone, delay or stop the deal, which is strongly opposed by the stores’ unions that have set up nogrocerymerger.com.
The two supermarket giants have also set up a site of their own, KrogerAlbertons.com, which offers a number of assurances about the pending deal to potential customers and shareholders.
The joining of Kroger, which has the bulk of its stores in the nation’s Midwest and Southeast, and Albertsons, which are more concentrated in the West Coast and Northeast, has the potential to make a grocer that could compete with Amazon or Walmart on a national scale, according to a quote from former industry analyst Ken Fenyo, on the store’s joint site.
“The combination of Kroger and Albertsons companies brings together two purpose-driven organizations to deliver superior value to customers, associates, communities and shareholders,” writes Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen, in a statement shared Tuesday by a public relations firm promoting the merger.
The store also promises a billion-dollar investment in salaries and efforts to keep consumer prices low in a statement from Kroger’s director of corporate affairs.
However, nogrocerymerger.com shares a stark contrast for its vision of what will happen if the grocers are allowed to create the nation’s second-largest supermarket (after Walmart).
“(The merger) would also potentially lead to store closures, worsen food deserts, increase prices for consumers, and destroy thousands of unionized grocery jobs,” according to a “fact sheet” on a website endorsed by nine different unions, which also expressed concern about a potential monopoly. “If this mega-merger goes through, Safeway, Ralphs, Smiths, Harris Teeter, Shaws, Kings, Randalls and about 25 other brands will all be owned by a single company.”
McMullen also expressed optimism in store plans to complete the merger by early 2024 in a December statement; however, those familiar with the process involved in a second request have indicated that clearance for such a massive deal could take up to two years.
In the Santa Clarita Valley, there are five Ralphs markets (Kroger), three Albertsons, four Vons (Albertsons) and one Food 4 Less (Kroger).
The manager of the Albertsons on Copper Hill Drive referred all questions to the store’s corporate office when reached by phone Tuesday morning.