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Bumble Bee Tuna Takeover Gets Thrown Overboard

Dec. 4, 2015
Thai Union, owner of the Chicken of the Sea brand, and Bumble Bee Seafoods abandoned their plans to merge after the Justice Department expressed "serious concerns" the deal would harm competition.

WASHINGTON—The United States has blocked the takeover of Bumble Bee Seafoods by the Thai Union Group, saying their proposed merger would hurt an already highly consolidated canned tuna market.

The US Justice Department, in a statement late Thursday, said that Thai Union, owner of the Chicken of the Sea brand, and Bumble Bee had abandoned their plans to merge after it had expressed "serious concerns" the deal would harm competition.

The proposed deal would have combined the two strong-selling brands of canned tuna in the US market. Both are key competitors of the market-leading StarKist, a subsidiary of the Dongwon Group in South Korea.

"Consumers are better off without this deal," said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the department's antitrust division, in the statement.

"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," Baer said.

In a separate statement Friday, Thai Union said it had reached an agreement with Lion Capital, the private equity firm that owns Bumble Bee Seafoods, to abandon their deal, announced as a $1.5 billion acquisition in December 2014.

Despite advocating the merits of the tie-up to the U.S. Justice Department over the past 12 months, the firms concluded that U.S. antitrust clearance was "now unlikely" under the time alloted by their agreement and the "higher level of complexity in the process," said Thai Union.

"We have decided to focus our energy on our existing business. Thai Union remains committed to the North American seafood market," said president and chief executive Thiraphong Chansiri.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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