(Aug. 6) As Whole Foods Market Inc. was holding its third-quarter conference call July 31 in Austin, Texas, its attorneys appeared in court, refuting a Federal Trade Commission injunction request in its planned purchase of Boulder, Colo.-based rival Wild Oats Markets Inc.

According to news reports, district court judge Paul Friedman expects to make a decision quickly on whether to grant the FTC’s request to block the sale.

Whole Foods chief executive officer John Mackey during the conference call told investors he expects to hear results from the hearing by mid-August.

It’s not likely to be the end of the matter because both sides reportedly have vowed to appeal the decision.

Mackey told investors Whole Foods is on track to open 18 to 20 new stores this year and a greater number in 2008. During the third quarter, sales increased 13.2% to $1.5 billion.

“We are very excited to see the acceleration in our new store openings materialize, as we expect these new stores to drive strong sales and comparable store sales growth in the not-so-distant future,” he said.

Mackey also addressed the proposed merger during the call, saying regardless of the outcome, Whole Foods still is on track to meet its goal of $12 billion in sales in 2010.

Whole Foods reported sales of $5.6 billion in 2006.