The Federal Trade Commission is filing a suit to block Procter & Gamble‘s proposed acquisition of Billie, saying the deal would “eliminate growing competition that benefits consumers.”
The FTC said Tuesday it had filed an administrative complaint and authorized a suit in federal court to prevent the consumer products giant from buying Billie, a growing razor and body-care start-up targeted at Millennial and Gen Z women.
The complaint alleges that the acquisition would eliminate substantial competition in the women’s wet shave market, which has long been dominated by consumer giants like P&G, maker of Venus, and Edgewell Personal Care, which owns Schick, but recently has faced competition from nascent direct-to-consumer brands like Billie, and criticism from consumers over rising prices.
“Billie saw an opportunity to challenge P&G’s position as the market leader by finding underserved, price- and quality-conscious customers, and building an innovative brand,” said Ian Conner, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “As its sales grew, Billie was likely to expand into brick-and-mortar stores, posing a serious threat to P&G. If P&G can snuff out Billie’s rapid competitive growth, consumers will likely face higher prices.”
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The statement noted that “as Billie grew rapidly, P&G introduced its own direct-to-consumer site promoting its women’s system razor brand, Venus.” The FTC alleges that Billie’s intended retail expansion, which would have benefited consumers through intensified competition, was halted due to the proposed acquisition.
This is not the first time the FTC has moved to block a major acquisition in the shave category. In February, the agency sued to block a proposed $1.37 billion merger between Edgewell and Harry’s, maker of men’s shave and grooming brand Harry’s and Flamingo, a line of women’s shave products and body care. Days later, Edgewell called the deal off.
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