The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has said it will not refer Co-operative Group’s acquisition of Somerfield to the Competition Commission.

The move paves the way for Co-op to become Britain’s fifth biggest grocer under chief executive Peter Marks.

The retailer will divest stores in 133 areas across the UK to resolve competition concerns raised by the proposed merger last year.

OFT chief executive John Fingleton said: “This divestment package ensures that consumers will continue to enjoy strong competition in local grocery markets across the UK, while at the same time allowing a strategically important and likely pro-competitive merger in the UK grocery sector to go ahead.”

The merger is expected to be completed in early March.