The FTC went old school in blocking a razor acquisition

The FTC’s move to block a P&G-Billie deal is based on the traditional antitrust playbook.

December 11, 2020

The folks at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have been busy.

In addition to hitting Mark Zuckerberg with antitrust papers, the commission also moved to block P&G’s acquisition of female DTC razor startup Billie.

The core of US antitrust law has been ‘consumer welfare’…

… AKA whether an acquisition would raise prices for consumers.

But with the rise of Big Tech, it has expanded its antitrust playbook to properly address things like:

  • The stifling of innovation
  • The maleffects an acquisition may have on other stakeholders (suppliers, partners, advertisers)

For antitrust nerds (we see you), Billie is a throwback

Billie was launched in 2017 to combat the “pink tax” — the extra cost that brands place on common female consumer household products.

The startup, which has raised $35m, clearly had enough traction to attract P&G.

“If P&G can snuff out Billie’s rapid competitive growth, consumers will likely face higher prices,” said the FTC, which also blocked Edgewell’s acquisition of Harry’s men’s razors in February.

Industry proponents say blocking these deals will take an exit option off the table for startups and make DTC investing an increasingly hairy experience.

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