ORRVILLE, OHIO — That didn’t take long. A day after the Federal Trade Commission announced its intention to block the J.M. Smucker Co.’s acquisition of the Wesson oil business from Conagra Brands, Inc., the two companies called off the deal. The two companies had agreed to the transaction in May 2017 for a purchase price of $285 million.
“While we disagree with the F.T.C.’s conclusion, we have mutually determined with Conagra that it is not in the best interest of either party to expend the anticipated significant additional time and resources to challenge the F.T.C.’s administrative complaint,” said Mark Smucker, chief executive officer, of Smucker. “We believe the F.T.C. underestimated the significant role that private label brands play in the oils category, which account for approximately 50% of all cooking oil sales and hold significantly higher market share at some retailers.
“We believe the F.T.C. underestimated the significant role that private label brands play in the oils category." — Mark Smucker, J.M. Smucker
“This transaction was expected to provide significant cost synergies to ensure that branded oil products would remain competitive in the market. We continue to be committed to delivering value to our consumers and customers with our Crisco brand and oils business.”
On March 5, the F.T.C. filed an administrative complaint stating that Smucker’s acquisition would substantially lessen competition or create a monopoly in violation of the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914. The agency’s staff had been authorized to seek a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction in federal court to prevent completion of the transaction.
A key issue raised by the F.T.C. was the claim that if the deal were completed, Smucker would control at least 70% of the market for branded canola and vegetable oils sold at retail, through the Crisco and Wesson brands. The agency added that internal documents from Smucker cited eliminating price competition between Crisco and Wesson as a key rationale for the acquisition.