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Byline: Thomas Lee
Dec. 12--Nestle S.A.'s purchase of Ralston Purina Co., a St. Louis-based maker of pet foods, cleared a big regulatory hurdle Tuesday as the Federal Trade Commission gave preliminary approval to the $11.2 billion deal.
The FTC's decision was a resounding defeat for an unusual alliance of opponents -- including consumer groups, farmers, antitrust hawks, and Ralston rivals Procter & Gamble and Mars Inc. -- who sought to block the merger.
The groups even enlisted last-minute support from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In a 4-0 vote, the FTC required only that Nestle sell Ralston's Meow …