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Puerto Rico Judge Blocks Wal-Mart Buy

December 6, 2002

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ A judge temporarily blocked Wal-Mart’s acquisition of a local supermarket chain on Friday, saying it could substantially reduce competition or it could create a monopoly.

Superior Court Judge Milagros Rivera Guadarrama issued a decision responding to a government motion filed Friday claiming Wal-Mart’s purchase of Supermercados Amigo’s 35 supermarkets and 4,500 employees violated the island’s antitrust laws.

Wal-Mart Puerto Rico Inc. officials didn’t immediately return telephone calls seeking comment.

``The court has determined that the plaintiff, the State, has demonstrated the Amigo’s acquisition by Wal-Mart could have the affect of substantially reducing competition or could create a monopoly,″ Rivera Guadarrama wrote in her decision.

The decision prohibits Amigo from transferring its holdings to Wal-Mart until the matter is resolved in the courts, the judge said.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission issued a consent decree Nov. 29 validating the February acquisition and freeing up Wal-Mart to close the purchase, which it did Thursday morning.

The U.S. retail giant has said antitrust concerns surrounding the acquisition, reportedly worth $225 million, were already addressed by the consent decree.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. already operates 19 stores including eight Sam’s Clubs in Puerto Rico. With the Amigo acquisition, Wal-Mart will employ about 10,000 people in this U.S. Caribbean territory, the company has said.

Founded in 1966, the Amigo supermarkets will continue operating under the Amigo brand name.

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