UK regulator to publish final report on Sainsbury’s-Asda this week

BRITAIN’S competition regulator said today (23) it expected to publish its final report on supermarket group Sainsbury’s proposed £7.3 billion takeover of Walmart-owned rival Asda on Thursday (25).

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) had said in its provisional report in February that the deal, agreed last April, should either be blocked entirely or require the sale of a significant number of stores, or even one of the brands.

The regulator identified 629 areas where there could be a substantial lessening of competition (SLC) in supermarkets, 290 areas where online competition could be reduced and 65 local overlaps in smaller convenience stores.

Sainsbury’s and Asda said last month the CMA’s analysis was “fundamentally flawed” but said they were willing to sell 125-150 stores to get their deal past the regulator – a number well short of what the CMA had said it was looking for.

Given the CMA’s concerns that the combination could lead to higher prices, most analysts and competition lawyers believe it is highly unlikely the deal will proceed.

That expectation has been reflected in Sainsbury’s share price, which has fallen 17 per cent over the last three months.