U.S. Sues to Block P&G’s Deal for Women’s Razor Brand Billie

U.S. antitrust officials are suing to block Procter & Gamble Co.’s acquisition of body-care brand Billie Inc., marking the second direct-to-consumer razor deal disrupted this year over competition concerns.

The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that it will file a complaint in federal court on antitrust grounds, claiming the deal would eliminate head-to-head competition and lead to higher prices in the women’s razor market. P&G announced the purchase in January.

“As its sales grew, Billie was likely to expand into brick-and-mortar stores, posing a serious threat to P&G,” Ian Conner, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement. “If P&G can snuff out Billie’s rapid competitive growth, consumers will likely face higher prices.”

The move threatens to derail P&G’s effort to bolster its womens shaving unit, which already includes the Venus brand. P&G said in a statement that it was disappointed by the FTC’s decision and is considering its options.

The lawsuit is the second antitrust suit filed by the agency this year to block an acquisition in the fast-growing direct-to-consumer razor market. In February, the FTC sued to block Edgewell Personal Care Co.’s $1.4 billion purchase of Harry’s Inc. The deal, which was later abandoned, was designed to jump-start Edgewell’s lagging razor sales by accessing the upstart’s direct-to-consumer capabilities.

That lawsuit accused Edgewell and P&G of operating their respective Schick and Gillette brands of men’s razors as a “comfortable duopoly” with annual price increases not driven by changes in costs or demand. As a result of Harry’s entering the market, P&G and Edgewell were forced to reduce prices and develop new products, the FTC said.

P&G shares were little changed at 3:46 p.m. in New York.

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