U.S. lawmaker calls for hearing on Amazon’s Whole Foods deal

14 Jul, 2017

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Representative David Cicilline, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel, has urged the subcommittee to hold a hearing on Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) plan to buy Whole Foods Market Inc (WFM.O).

The $13.7 billion deal announced in June would help the online retailer make inroads into the grocery sector and brick-and-mortar retail space.

Cicilline requested the hearing on Thursday in a letter to the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and the subcommittee chairman. Shares of Amazon were down 0.2 percent in mid-morning trading on Friday.

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

Amazon declined to comment.

The deal must be approved by U.S. antitrust enforcers, in this case most likely the Federal Trade Commission. Congress plays no formal role in that process but hearings are often used to highlight the possible impact of deals on consumers.

Also this week, hedge fund manager Douglas Kass from Seabreeze Partners Management Inc said he was shorting shares of the retailer because of concern about Amazon in Washington.

Kass said that he had heard rumblings on Capitol Hill regarding concern about Amazon’s size and clout but did not specify what they were.

“I am shorting Amazon today because I have learned that there are currently early discussions and due diligence being considered in the legislative chambers in Washington, D.C.,” he wrote in a note to investors late on Wednesday. “If I am correct, word of this could lower Amazon’s shares by 10 percent overnight.”

Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli

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