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Published: Tuesday, 1/15/2002

FTC files to halt Libbey deal for unit of Anchor Hocking


Libbey, Inc., and the Federal Trade Commission failed to find a way for the Toledo tableware company to buy a rival glassmaker after more than three weeks of additional talks.

The FTC filed a lawsuit yesterday to block Libbey's planned $332 million acquisition of the Anchor Hocking glassware business after twice delaying the action.

Saying the combination threatened to create a monopoly on food-service glassware, the FTC has asked a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction against the transaction.

Such an order would prevent Libbey from completing the purchase during the FTC's administrative proceedings challenging the combination, according to the lawsuit. Libbey has assured the FTC it will not buy Anchor Hocking from Newell Rubbermaid, Inc., of Freeport, Ill, until a ruling on an injunction is made unless it first gives 10 days' notice, according to the lawsuit.

Both Libbey and Anchor Hocking make a variety of glass items, but their biggest overlap is in drinking glasses. Libbey glasses are sold primarily to food-service customers; Anchor Hocking's mostly are sold in retail stores.

Anchor Hocking, however, was successfully taking food-service sales from Libbey by offering lower prices, according to the lawsuit. The acquisition would decrease competition and eliminate an effective rival, it said.

A FTC spokesman declined further comment on the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Kenneth Wilkes, Libbey's vice president and chief financial officer, said yesterday: "We are exploring alternatives to address concerns of the FTC, and we will continue to do that."

Libbey announced in June that it planned to buy the Anchor Hocking business, which is based in Lancaster, Ohio, and would boost annual revenues by 50 percent. The FTC voted last month to oppose the deal.

At the 4 p.m. trading close yesterday, Libbey's stock price fell 90 cents a share to $33 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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