March 21, 2018

Tesco-Booker deal provisionally cleared

14 November 2017, 02:25 | Melvin Schneider

But the CMA said it was clear the two firms did not now compete head-to-head in most of their activities - such as supplying the catering sector, which accounts for 30% of Booker's business.

In response to the announcement, Booker said: "We are pleased that the CMA has provisionally concluded that this transaction does not lessen competition, and will continue to work with the CMA ahead of its publication of a final decision, expected in December".

Britain's competition regulator has given Tesco provisional approval for its £3.7bn takeover of the wholesaler Booker, saying the deal "does not raise competition concerns".

The CMA had previously raised fears over 350 local areas of overlap between Tesco and Booker and said it was anxious shoppers could face worse terms when buying their groceries as a result of the deal.

A raft of rival wholesalers have also raised concerns the deal could see Booker benefit from improved supplier terms making it hard for them to compete, according to the CMA.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provisionally cleared the merger between Tesco and wholesale giant Booker.

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It said they argued that Booker could raise prices to the shops it supplies.

Booker's increased clout would potentially allow it to negotiate better terms from its suppliers, which could be passed on as lower prices to the shops it supplies, the investigation found.

However, it also concluded that the wholesale market would remain competitive in the longer term, noting that Booker's share of the United Kingdom grocery wholesaling market - at less than 20 per cent - was not sufficient to justify the longer-term concerns. At the end of June, the companies requested a fast-track referral to the next stage of the investigation.

Tesco and Booker welcomed the regulator's decision.

As of 09:28 GMT, Tesco's share price had added 4.55 percent to 185.05p, outperforming the broader United Kingdom market, with the benchmark FTSE 100 index now standing 0.12 percent higher at 7,423.98 points.

The CMA's findings are surprising given its previous concerns over the deal, which was first announced in January.

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