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Saying further delay would kill its deal, H.J. Heinz Co. urged a federal appeals court Wednesday to reject the government’s request for an injunction blocking the company’s acquisition of Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. In a 29-page brief filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Heinz said the Federal Trade Commission already has failed to convince a trial court judge to block the $185 million deal. The FTC should not be able to turn that defeat into a victory by obtaining an injunction from the appeals court, Heinz said. “In the end, this case turns on the factual findings of the district court that the acquisition will be pro-competitive,” Heinz said. The company also urged the court to dismiss the government’s entire appeal, noting that if the case is accepted for review, the public would be harmed because Heinz would be unable to close Beech-Nut’s manufacturing facility. Elimination of this outdated facility accounts for a share of the efficiencies expected to be gained from the deal. The filing also attacks the FTC for focusing its appeal on the harm caused to retailers by the merger. Heinz argued that the FTC may not raise this issue because it did not present evidence on it at trial. Heinz agreed in February to acquire Milnot Holding Corp. of St. Louis and its Beech-Nut subsidiary. The FTC challenged the deal, arguing that the country’s second- and third-largest makers of baby food should not be allowed to merge. The companies countered that they needed to be bigger to effectively challenge industry-leader Gerber, a unit of Novartis AG. U.S. District Judge James Robertson sided with the companies, ruling Oct. 18 that the efficiencies from the merger outweigh any competitive harms. Copyright (c)2000 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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