Alaska lawmakers say grocery store merger would hurt economy



(The Center Square) – A merger of two major grocery store chains would hurt Alaska’s economy, especially in the state’s rural areas, state lawmakers told the head of the Federal Trade Commission in a letter.

Fourteen Alaska grocery stores operated by Kroger would close if the FTC approves a merger between Kroger and Albertsons, the bipartisan group of lawmakers said in a letter to FTC Chairman Lina Khan. The companies filed a notice of the proposed merger with the FTC last year.

The grocery store chain did not indicate which 14 Alaska stores would close.

“This leaves many communities worried, and rightly so, that a reliable and affordable food source may not be as readily available anymore,” lawmakers said in their letter. It could mean families in an already weakened economy may have to find income in another community or state.”

The merger would hurt the state’s rural areas the most, according to the letter.

Over the past year, the legislature has dug deep into labor and hiring concerns within the state,” lawmakers said. “We are already lacking the ability to attract and retain a workforce to strengthen our economy. The federal government must consider Alaska’s unique economy when considering this merger; its decisions should help us address our workforce challenges, not generate additional hurdles.”

Lawmakers said they are “leery” about Kroger’s promise that another chain would purchase the closed stores.

“In the late 1990s, Safeway purchased all locally owned Carrs grocery stores in the state, and despite the promise of continued employment and increased competition, they soon left the state,” the letter said. “Alaska Marketplace purchased those closed stores and began business as a competitor to Safeway, but within a short period of time, the company closed, leaving many communities without competition.”

Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, and Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, also sent letters to the FTC asking the agency to block the merger.

Other states are also concerned. Khan attended a meeting last month in Las Vegas where residents said they couldn’t afford the merger.

“If there’s a merger that is presenting a lot of risk of reducing competition, may even create a monopoly, you know, we need to weigh those risks, and especially given that some of these remedies in the past have failed,” Khan told KLAS after the meeting.

Seven Democratic attorneys general sent a letter of opposition to Khan in August.

The FTC has not indicated when it would issue a decision.



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