Justice Department Concerns Sink Giant Tuna Merger
This story has been updated to include a statement from Bumble Bee Foods.
Bumble Bee Foods and Thai Union Group, which owns Chicken of the Sea, have given up on their plans for a merger after the Department of Justice raised concerns.
A finalized deal would have combined the second- and third-largest sellers of canned tuna in the U.S. “Consumers are better off without this deal,” assistant attorney general Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division said in a press release Friday. “Our investigation convinced us—and the parties knew or should have known from the get go—that the market is not functioning competitively today, and further consolidation would only make things worse.”
Currently, there are only three major shelf-stabilized tuna sellers in the U.S.—Bumble Bee, Thai Union Group, and Starkist. In August, Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative filed a class action lawsuit against the three companies, alleging they had collaborated on a price-fixing scheme.
In a statement released Friday, CEO and president of Thai Union Thiraphong Chansiri said, “We have put a lot of efforts to get this deal approved. However, we also recognize that the clearance is now unlikely due to a higher level of complexity in the process.”
In a statement to Fortune, Bumble Bee CEO Chris Lischewski said that he was aware of the terminated acquisition. “During the past year, Bumble Bee has conducted business as usual and now has a renewed focus to execute its vision for the company well into the future.”