FTC sues to block Procter & Gamble's acquisition of Billie women's razor brand
The Federal Trade Commission is suing to block Procter & Gamble Co.’s acquisition of women’s shaving and grooming brand Billie after an 11-month review.
The complaint, to be filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, will allege that P&G, marketer of category-leading Gillette and Venus wet-shave brands as well as electric razor brand Braun, would “eliminate growing competition that benefits consumers” with the deal, the FTC said in a statement.
The FTC said Billie’s marketing proposition was selling a “quality, mid-tier women’s system razor targeted at Generation Z and Millennial women, including through marketing attacking the practice of pricing women’s razors higher than comparable men’s razors—otherwise known as the ‘pink tax.’”
The FTC voted 4-1 to block the deal, with Republican-appointed commissioner Christine S. Wilson voting no. A trial on the matter is scheduled to begin June 22.
In a statement, P&G said: “We are disappointed by the FTC’s decision. We are considering our options in light of the decision—and we do not have any additional comment at this time.”
The FTC’s move follows a similar suit in February to block Edgewell Personal Care’s acquisition of Harry’s, which the commission said would lead to a return of a “comfortable duopoly” between P&G and Edgewell, maker of Schick and many private-label brands. Unilever’s Dollar Shave Club is also in the market, and recently expanded from direct-to-consumer only to selling products at Walmart.
Some market watchers in February speculated the FTC was less likely to go after P&G’s Billie deal, because Billie is smaller than Harry’s, and the latter also owns one of four major razor manufacturing operations in the world, so its consolidation with Edgewell might eliminate a potential supplier for future competitors. P&G's 2018 acquisition of Walker & Co., another small d-to-c razor marketer, went unchallenged.
But in its statement today, Ian Conner, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said, “Billie saw an opportunity to challenge P&G’s position as the market leader by finding underserved, price and quality conscious customers, building an innovative brand. As its sales grew, Billie was likely to expand into brick-and-mortar stores, posing a serious threat to P&G. If P&G can snuff out Billie’s rapid competitive growth, consumers will likely face higher prices.”