(Corrects headline to show that FTC, not Whole Foods, may request rebranding)
WASHINGTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) - U.S. antitrust regulators battling with premium grocer Whole Foods WFMI.O over its 2007 acquisition of former rival Wild Oats asked a judge on Monday to halt all integration activities.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission also said that if the court ruled that the agency had a strong case against Whole Foods, the government would also seek to rebrand the acquired stores with their former Wild Oats signs and create an independent management team to supervise them.
The FTC, which has a separate process under way to determine if the Whole Foods’ acquisition of its rival violated antitrust law, asked for integration to be stopped in a filing to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“The FTC believes that this preliminary injunctive relief is necessary and reasonable to preserve interim competition and maintain the commission’s ability to fashion an effective remedy should it be warranted,” the FTC said in its filing.
Whole Foods said it had no immediate comment.
Federal Trade Commission vs Whole Foods Market, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, No. 07-01021. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)