CMA approves Tesco's £3.7bn Booker deal

Tesco and Booker welcomed the decision

Tesco and Booker welcomed the decision

Tesco has tightened its hold on the UK's food market when the competition regulator gave final approval for its £3.7 billion takeover of wholesaler Booker.

Tesco, as a retailer, and Booker, as a wholesaler, do not compete head-to-head in most of their activities.

In arriving at its decision, the CMA noted that Booker does not own the shops it supplies such as Premier, Londis and Budgens.

Tesco's £3.7 billion acquisition of wholesaler Booker has been given the final all-clear after an investigation determined it would not lead to higher prices or impact on service for shoppers.

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A Booker spokeswoman said: "Booker welcomes the announcement from the CMA that it has given unconditional clearance of the company's proposed merger with Tesco". It found that existing strong competition in wholesale and retail made this unlikely.

Back in May the CMA officially launched its probe into the proposed deal, amid criticism from across the grocery and convenience sector, which included threats of shareholder revolts and an alliance of the UK's largest grocery wholesalers voicing concerns that the deal would "threaten the survival of the independent retailer".

"The CMA has said it thinks consumers could benefit from lower prices, which suggests even it thinks suppliers will be squeezed by this extreme buying power of this new behemoth", said Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital.

Half of symbol group retailers surveyed and more than a third of independent retailers said they would stop buying from Booker, should it raise its prices after the merger.

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While they don't compete with each other directly, the CMA's initial investigation, opened in May, found that 350 markets in the United Kingdom could be damaged through an overlap. "Having examined the evidence in depth, we are satisfied this will remain the case following the merger".

It concluded that the wholesale market would remain competitive in the longer term, noting that Booker's share of the United Kingdom grocery wholesaling market was not sufficient to justify the longer-term concerns of Booker´s rivals.

The CMA opened its phase 1 investigation into the merger in May.

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