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"Due to the current economic environment and the impact it is having on our business, Whole Foods Market regrets to announce that we are eliminating positions," said Libba Letton, media relations with Whole Foods Market.
The layoffs come after a spate of bad news for the organic grocer this month, including a 30 percent drop in its third-quarter net income due mainly to the cost of its acquisition of the Wild Oats chain and a down economy. Other bad news this week was that Whole Foods had to recall ground beef because of possible E. coli contamination.
In other news, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission rescheduled an administrative hearing on Whole Foods Markets' purchase of rival organic grocer Wild Oats to September 8. The merger took place last year but is still in dispute. The Austin, Texas-based organic grocer requested a postponement from the originally scheduled conference date of August 18.
Last month, a federal appeals court found that a lower court judge had erred in declining to issue a preliminary injunction by the FTC that would have blocked the merger. The ruling opened the door for more FTC hearings on the deal. The FTC is one of two agencies that determine whether mergers violate antitrust laws.
The FTC had argued that the merger of Whole Foods and Wild Oats raised antitrust concerns in 21 regions where the two chains were each other's competitors. Whole Foods countered that its stores compete in a broader market against all supermarkets, not just organic grocery stores. Antitrust experts say that while it would be hard to undo the merger, the case could be important in strengthening the FTC's power in future cases.