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    FTC to Suspend Action Against Whole Foods

    Federal regulators have challenged the company since its acquisition of Wild Oats two years ago.

    The Federal Trade Commission yesterday agreed to suspend its case against Whole Foods Markets, Inc. to discuss possible settlements over the natural and organic food retailer's acquisition of Wild Oats, which regulators have challenged since 2007, according to published reports.

    David Wales, the chief competition enforcer at the FTC, told Dow Jones that Whole Foods has sent the commission a settlement proposal.

    The announcement of a possible settlement comes less than a week after a federal appeals court rejected Whole Foods' counter-lawsuit against the commission -- a bid by the grocer to block a full administrative FTC trial, scheduled for April, on the legality of the merger.

    Whole Foods EVP Jim Sud responded, "We welcome this opportunity to hold constructive discussions directly with the commissioners as well as the FTC's attorneys."

    The FTC said it would suspend its regulatory challenge until Feb. 5 so the parties could discuss the matter.

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