Tesco has urged the Competition and Markets Authority to fast-track its investigation into the grocer’s planned merger with convenience business Booker.
The CMA is in the midst of assessing whether the £3.7bn merger could “reduce competition and choice for shoppers and other customers”, such as convenience retailers that are currently supplied by Booker.
In a stock exchange announcement this morning, the big four grocer said that it had “requested that the CMA uses the fast-track process to allow it to move more quickly to examining the merger through a detailed phase two process”.
The CMA is expected to respond to this request within the next fortnight. It launched its probe into the Booker merger at the end of May and originally said that the probe could last six months.
Playing down concerns
The first phase of the merger will run until July 25 and consists of the CMA assessing the views of interested parties.
Phase two would involve a more wide-ranging investigation, should the CMA identify a potential reduction in competition.
Tesco and Booker’s respective chief executives, Dave Lewis and Charles Wilson, have moved to play down competition concerns by insisting that Booker does not own any of the c-stores it supplies.
Booker does, however, own convenience fascias Premier, Budgens, Londis and the Family Shopper discount chain.
One of Booker’s rivals, Nisa, was among the businesses to lay bare their concerns about the proposed deal.
Nisa chief executive Nick Read warned at the time of the merger announcement that the takeover would cause an “enormous amount of pain”.
Read also claimed it would be “churlish” to think the deal would not be a threat to his business, as a result of Booker’s increased buying power.