• Competition fears lead to pause in discussions between Sainsbury’s and Nisa
  • Door not closed to an eventual tie-up
  • Nisa understood to have reopened talks with the Co-op

Sainsbury’s has pressed the pause button on takeover talks with retailer and wholesaler Nisa because of concern that it could stoke greater than expected regulatory interest.

Sainsbury’s had been in exclusive talks to buy Nisa for £130m, but discussions ended after the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) expressed concerns about Tesco’s proposed takeover of Booker.

The decision means the door may now be open for the Co-op to step in and take control of Nisa.

“Sainsbury’s has decided to pause discussions with Nisa until it better understands how the CMA would review any deal,” a source said.

The CMA was concerned that Tesco’s £3.7bn merger with Booker might undermine competition in 350 neighbourhoods.

It questioned whether there would be a clear distinction between Tesco’s own stores and Booker shops, including the Budgens and Londis chains, that it would supply if a deal went ahead.

Sainsbury’s is thought still to be interested in Nisa, but Nisa is understood to have reopened talks with the Co-op about a deal.

Chairman’s message

Nisa chairman Peter Hartley wrote to the retailer’s owner members to tell them Sainsbury’s was still interested in potentially making an offer but needed “greater clarity over the evolving regulatory and competition considerations”.

The letter said: “Another party that had previously submitted a bid for your company has reaffirmed its interest in making an offer for Nisa and we are discussing this with them.

“Our sector continues to change and evolve at pace, many of these changes will shape the convenience sector for the next decade and beyond. The board of Nisa continues to review any serious incoming queries and offers in the best interest of its members.”