Office Depot Rises on Signal That Staples Deal Remains Alive

  • FTC lawyer says settlement talks on merger suit continue
  • U.S. has so far rejected offers to resolve antitrust concerns

Office Depot Inc. shares jumped 5.3 percent on renewed optimism that a takeover by Staples Inc. will survive a challenge by U.S. regulators.

Tara Reinhart, the Federal Trade Commission lawyer leading the litigation against the office-supply retailers, told a judge at an administrative hearing Monday that settlement talks with Staples are continuing, according to the agency.

Office Depot rose to $5.78 at the close in New York, marking the biggest single-day increase in almost three months. Staples also gained, rising 1.9 percent to $9.70.

The FTC sued the retailers in December, claiming the $6.3 billion tie-up would squelch competition and raise prices for corporate customers that buy under contract. The agency is seeking a federal-court order to block the deal pending a trial at its in-house administrative court. The federal-court hearing is scheduled to begin in March.

The commission previously rejected an offer by Staples to transfer up to $1.25 billion in commercial contracts, a move aimed at preserving competition. Reinhart has said the agency is concerned that the companies are merely transferring contracts and not divesting physical assets, a position she reiterated Monday.

Representatives from both companies didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Reinhart’s comments at the administrative hearing were reported earlier by Dealreporter.

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