Booker and Tesco have accepted that their planned merger will not be resolved through the Competition and Markets Authority’s initial investigation.
The companies have instead urged the regulator to move ahead to a longer phase two investigation which will take six months.
A phase two investigation occurs when a deal: “May be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition.”
The companies’ joint decision to ‘fast track’ the merger suggests they believe the CMA has found enough evidence to show the deal has the potential to harm competition.
The results of the initial investigation were due to be published on July 25, but will now be published by July 12. The two companies will then be able to suggest changes to the proposed merger in order to satisfy the CMA’s competition concerns. If no agreement is reached a phase two investigation begins immediately.
A statement by Booker reads: “We expect the CMA to issue an early decision to refer to Phase 2 within the next two weeks. We are grateful to the CMA team for the work they have done to date and appreciate the support of customers, suppliers and colleagues during this process.”
Describing the use of the ‘fast track’ process, a statement from the CMA states: “The fast track process has been used in a number of CMA merger investigations previously including BT/EE and Ladbrokes/Coral.”
While the BT/EE deal was later cleared, a separate competition investigation by Ofcom resulted in BT being forced to separate its wholesale and consumer businesses. Ladbrokes/Coral were forced to sell off near 400 shops.
Many rival multiples and symbol groups are on the look-out to acquire new retail locations, with McCols openly eying up the possibility of buying up much of Tesco’s One Stop estate if the supermarket was forced to sell it by the CMA.
Booker’s rival wholesalers are expected to have submitted evidence against the Booker and Tesco merger. Parfetts had previously confirmed to Retail Express that they had submitted comments to the CMA while Bestway have been vocal in their opposition to the deal.