Democrats query Reckitt Benckiser’s plan to promote child formulation unit


Democratic lawmakers are urging the highest US antitrust enforcer to scrutinise a proposed sale of Reckitt Benckiser’s child formulation unit to a non-public fairness group, warning that it “could shallow out” the market throughout a nationwide provide scarcity.

US senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders, together with House consultant Katie Porter, despatched a letter on Tuesday asking Jonathan Kanter, head of the US Department of Justice’s antitrust unit, to probe the try and promote Reckitt’s toddler formulation enterprise, whose manufacturers embrace Enfamil.

Clayton, Dubilier & Rice is reported to be among the many personal fairness teams which have submitted bids for the unit, which UK-based Reckitt placed on the block earlier this 12 months. The sale is anticipated to herald about $7bn.

The lawmakers urged Kanter to “closely examine whether such a transaction would likely harm competition or prolong the [baby formula] crisis” and sue to dam the transaction if needed.

The letter stated the deal would doubtless burden the producer with elevated debt, weakening the second-largest toddler formulation maker within the US as households rushed to safe the product. They additionally stated an acquisition might reduce competitors in an business that’s already closely consolidated.

“If private equity investors take over a key infant formula manufacturer with the intent to further consolidate and merge operations when the market is already failing families and their children, matters will be even worse for consumers,” stated the letter, seen by the Financial Times.

Warren stated in a press release: “Private equity firms have a well-documented history of hollowing out companies and jeopardising product safety.”

Reckitt stated in response that it had been working crops across the clock and dealing carefully with the federal government to spice up manufacturing inputs and capability. Ensuring “safe, high-quality formula is in the hands of families that need it” continued to be a prime precedence, it added in a press release.

CD&R and the DoJ declined to remark.

The US stated final month that it could improve imports of child formulation to deal with rising shortages after some mother and father reported being unable to feed their infants. Supplies of the merchandise had been below pressure for months amid disruptions in labour markets and international provide chains within the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Making issues worse, producer Abbott then recalled three of its merchandise after 4 infants who consumed them turned sick, and two died. Abbott subsequently closed its manufacturing facility at Sturgis, Michigan, whereas inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration carried out an investigation.

Reckitt is seeking to promote the rest of its child formulation enterprise after disposing of the Chinese arm final 12 months. The deliberate sale would unwind the 2017 acquisition of Mead Johnson, one among its largest ever, which was made below former chief government Rakesh Kapoor.

The letter comes as senior US antitrust officers together with Kanter and Lina Khan, chair of the US Federal Trade Commission, have pledged to intensify scrutiny of offers involving personal fairness. Kanter final month warned of a forthcoming crackdown, arguing that buyout teams’ enterprise mannequin was “often very much at odds with the law and very much at odds with the competition we’re trying to protect”.

Khan simply weeks later stated she would take a extra “muscular” strategy to overseeing personal fairness transactions, pointing to “life and death consequences” when buyouts place massive sections of the financial system below the management of Wall Street.

The lawmakers urged Kanter to take an in depth have a look at any buyout, together with these past the child formulation market. “The ruinous model of private equity does not promote long-term competition; it reduces quality and safety and drives vulnerable target companies out of business,” they stated.