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Feds Sour On Pickle Merger

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking to block the proposed merger of two pickle companies as anticompetitive.

The FTC opposes the proposed acquisition of Claussen Pickle Co. by the investment firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst Equity Fund, which owns Vlasic Pickle Co.

The FTC authorized its staff Tuesday to seek a preliminary injunction in federal district court to block the proposed acquisition on grounds it would violate federal antitrust laws.

In a statement, the FTC said the proposed transaction would combine the dominant firm in the market for refrigerated pickles, Claussen, with its most significant competitor in refrigerated pickles and the largest national brand of shelf-stable pickles, Vlasic.

The commission said Vlasic provides a competitive constraint on Claussen since Vlasic is the leading U.S. producer of shelf-stable pickles and Vlasic and Claussen are the only premium pickle brands advertised and available nationwide.

Claussen is operated by Kraft's Oscar Mayer Foods division.

Vlasic was spun off by Campbell Soup Co. in 1998 and purchased by Hicks, Muse in 2001. Hicks, Muse is a Dallas-based investment firm that owns Pinnacle Food Corp., which operates the Vlasic business.

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