U.S. antitrust officials released a statement Friday warning that Seven & I Holdings Co.'s purchase of local convenience store chain Speedway may be against antimonopoly laws.

"We have reason to believe that this transaction is illegal," Rebecca Slaughter, Federal Trade Commission acting chairwoman, and Commissioner Rohit Chopra said in the statement.

Ahead of the statement, Seven & I announced that it has completed its acquisition of the convenience store and fuel retail operations of U.S. oil refinery Marathon Petroleum Corp., run mainly under the Speedway brand, but the Japanese retail giant's effort to expand its foreign operations through the $21 billion buyout may now face push back from American authorities.

The two commissioners, both Democratic Party appointees, said that the acquisition of the Speedway chain of convenience stores in gasoline stations raises "significant competitive concerns in hundreds of local retail gasoline and diesel fuel markets across the country."

The FTC officials added that they have not secured a majority in the commission to block the transaction or take enforcement measures such as litigation.

The commission currently comprises two appointees each from the Democratic and Republican parties. But the administration of President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has recently selected a fifth member to join the commission.

While the latest statement is not legally binding, the addition of the third Democratic appointee may give commissioners a majority needed to take enforcement measures.

"The Commission will continue to investigate to determine an appropriate path forward to address the anticompetitive harm," Slaughter and Chopra said, expressing their intent to continue studying the acquisition.

Meanwhile, the Republican appointees in the commission have expressed frustration at Slaughter's handling of the transaction, which they also believe to be in violation of antitrust laws.

Commissioners Noah Phillips and Christine Wilson slammed the Democratic statement, saying that the nonbinding comment leaves consumers and businesses unprotected.

Speedway has some 3,900 stores in 36 states.

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