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Asda to sell 47 Netto stores

Asda, the grocer owned by Wal-Mart, has agreed to sell 47 of the stores it plans to buy from Netto to rivals including Morrisons and Iceland in order to win regulatory clearance for the deal.

Asda said it had lined up buyers for 39 stores, including all 25 of the shops for which it had to find up-front buyers as a condition of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) clearing the Netto deal, it said on Wednesday.

Danish conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk (MAERSKb.CO) agreed in May to sell the British arm of its Netto discount food stores to Asda for 778 million pounds.

Wm Morrison Supermarkets (MRW.L) said in a separate statement it had agreed to buy 16 of the 47 stores for 28.1 million pounds ($44 million), conditional on Asda's acquisition of Netto receiving the go-ahead.

Morrisons, Britain's fourth-ranked grocer, said the stores would add 120,000 square feet of additional selling space, with handover expected from March and conversion to its own format in the following three months.

Haldanes Stores Limited is buying 20 stores, Asda said, including 18 of the ones on the upfront list, while Iceland Food is buying three, one of which is on the list, Asda said.

Monthly data from market researcher Kantar Worldpanel on Wednesday showed J Sainsbury (SBRY.L) overtaking Asda to become Britain's second-biggest grocer for the first time in seven years. Asda's purchase of Netto stores should see it return to second place.

The OFT said it was minded to accept Asda's proposals, although the measures are dependent on public consultation.

Source : Paul Sandle & Mark Potter - Reuters

12 January 2011
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