UK competition watchdog blocks Asda-Sainsbury's merger

The Competition and Markets Authority said the merger of Sainsbury's and Asda would result in higher prices and less choice for consumers.
The Competition and Markets Authority said the merger of Sainsbury's and Asda would result in higher prices and less choice for consumers.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Britain's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) yesterday blocked the merger of supermarket giant Sainsbury's and Walmart-owned Asda, arguing that it would result in higher prices and less choice.

The pair - the nation's second-and third-biggest supermarket chains, respectively - announced in reaction that they have scrapped their proposed deal.

"The CMA has blocked the Sainsbury's-Asda merger after finding it would lead to increased prices in stores, online and at many petrol stations across the United Kingdom," the regulator said in a final report.

The deal has foundered one year after Sainsbury's and Asda unveiled their merger plans, which sought to create a retail king to leapfrog British No. 1 supermarket group Tesco.

The CMA said the transaction - which was effectively a takeover bid, with Sainsbury's acquiring a majority 58 per cent stake in the combined group and Walmart the rest - would have resulted in a "substantial lessening of competition" at the national and local levels.

"The CMA found that UK shoppers and motorists would be worse off if Sainsbury's and Asda - two of the country's largest supermarkets - were to merge," it added. "This is due to expected price rises, reductions in the quality and range of products available, or a poorer overall shopping experience."

HIGHER PRICES

The Competition and Markets Authority has blocked the Sainsbury's-Asda merger after finding it would lead to increased prices in stores, online and at many petrol stations across (Britain).

COMPETITION AND MARKETS AUTHORITY

Mr Stuart McIntosh, chairman of the CMA inquiry group, said it "concluded that there is no effective way of addressing our concerns".

In reaction, Asda and Sainsbury's announced that they have "mutually agreed to terminate the transaction".

But Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe argued in a statement that the merger sought to "lower prices for consumers", adding that the CMA has ignored "the dynamic and highly competitive nature of the UK grocery market".

The merger would have created a supermarket titan bigger than Tesco, with a network of some 2,800 Sainsbury's, Asda and Argos stores.

Long-established British retailers are battling sliding consumer sentiment and Brexit uncertainty alongside a broader economic slowdown.

The sector also faces fierce competition from the likes of United States online titan Amazon as well as German-owned discounters Aldi and Lidl.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2019, with the headline 'UK competition watchdog blocks Asda-Sainsbury's merger'. Print Edition | Subscribe