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Tesco takeover of Booker gets all clear from independent authority
14 November 2017, 06:35 | Kelvin Horton
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said its in-depth investigation into the tie-up found it did not raise competition concerns despite fears raised by a raft of rival wholesalers.
The CMA said in a statement this morning that it had provisionally found that Tesco's anticipated acquisition of Booker "may not be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets for goods or services in the United Kingdom".
'The group, recognising that Tesco's shops nevertheless compete with Booker-supplied shops, considered the impact of the merger in every local area where a Tesco and a Booker-supplied shop are both present (over 12,000 shops).
It examined evidence from Tesco and Booker, as well as evidence from more than 65 wholesalers, suppliers and retail chains and a survey of hundreds of retailers.
The regulator concluded the would "remain competitive in the longer term", because Booker's share of the market is less than 20 percent, and therefore "not sufficient to justify the longer-term concerns".
The CMA gave provisional clearance to the deal, finding that head-to-head competition in areas such as supplying the catering sector was now limited.
"This might increase competition in the wholesale market, as well as reducing prices for shoppers".
Despite acknowledging that a combined Tesco-Booker would represent 46% of the grocery retail sector, CMA inquiry group chair Simon Polito said competition "is sufficiently strong" to ensure the deal "Will not lead to higher prices or a reduced service for supermarket and convenience shoppers".
The deal, announced in January, would combine the U.K.'s largest retailer with the country's largest food wholesaler, a surprise move that could bring hefty cost savings for the supermarket operator.
The regulator is due to report its final findings in December.
While 50% of Tesco investors must give the deal the green light, the threshold is 75% for Booker shareholders.
Shares in Tesco (LON:TSCO) have jumped almost five percent in London this morning, as Britain's competition watchdog cleared provisionally the grocer's tie-up with wholesaler Booker Group (LON:BOK).
Tesco now expects the merger to go ahead in early 2018.
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