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The Federal Trade Commission voted August 2 to block Conso International Corp.’s $22 million acquisition of McCall Pattern Co. on antitrust grounds. In a unanimous decision, the five commissioners said the combination of two of the three largest makers of home sewing patterns would give Conso control over more than 75% of the U.S. market. The next two competitors would respectively control 22% and 2% of the market, the agency said. “This three-to-two merger would significantly reduce competition and create a dominant firm in the market,” said Richard Parker, director of the FTC’s enforcement bureau. “Consumers would be the losers if this transaction were to proceed as proposed.” Conso Chairman J. Cary Findlay did not return calls for comment. The suit is expected to be filed next week in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It also will allege that the deal would give Conso the power to raise prices. The agency said neither expansion by existing firms nor entry by new companies is likely. This is the third time in two months that antitrust regulators have rejected attempts by two of the top three players in an industry to merge. The others involved WorldCom Inc./Sprint Corp. and H.J. Heinz Co./Beech-Nut Nutrition Corp. The Conso case spotlights concerns raised by the American Antitrust Institute and others over pending legislation that would exempt companies involved in deals of less than $50 million from notifying antitrust regulators. The current deal threshold is $15 million. Critics contend that raising the threshold would let anti-competitive deals to slip through. Senior management took the Union, S.C., company private last year in a $66 million deal. That $9 per share offer represented a 78% premium over Conso’s closing price on the day before the transaction was unveiled. McCall is a unit of MP Holdings Inc., a privately-held New York company. Conso is best know for its Simplicity brand, which is sold through Wal-Mart. It produces patterns on tissue paper that consumers use to produce homemade clothing and crafts. Copyright �2000 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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