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CMA Blocks Sainsbury's-ASDA Merger

Sainsbury's Argos Asda Habitat 725 x 500.jpg

The CMA has blocked the Sainsbury’s-Asda merger after finding it would lead to increased prices in stores, online and at many petrol stations across the UK.

In its final report, published today, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) found that UK shoppers and motorists would be worse off if Sainsbury’s and Asda – two of the country’s largest supermarkets – were to merge. This is due to expected price rises, reductions in the quality and range of products available, or a poorer overall shopping experience.

Following an in-depth investigation, a group of independent CMA panel members concluded that the deal would result in a substantial lessening of competition at both a national and local level for people shopping in supermarkets. This would mean shoppers right across the UK would be affected, not just in the areas where Sainsbury’s and Asda stores overlap.

Stuart McIntosh, chair of the inquiry group, said:

It’s our responsibility to protect the millions of people who shop at Sainsbury’s and Asda every week. Following our in-depth investigation, we have found this deal would lead to increased prices, reduced quality and choice of products, or a poorer shopping experience for all of their UK shoppers.

We have concluded that there is no effective way of addressing our concerns, other than to block the merger.

The CMA’s investigation found that, as well as affecting in-store customers, the merger would result in increased prices and reduced quality of service, such as fewer delivery options, when shopping online. Furthermore, it would lead to motorists paying more at over 125 locations where Sainsbury’s and Asda petrol stations are located close together.

In making the decision to prohibit the merger, the Group reviewed a wide range of issues in detail, such as the increased competition presented by discount stores like Lidl and Aldi, and how new or expanding competitors could affect the retail market, including online. Whilst the panel carefully considered these industry developments, they did not allay its serious competition concerns about the merger.

The Group also carefully reviewed the companies’ statement they would cut some prices. However, detailed analysis of the impact of the deal clearly showed that, overall, the merger would reduce competition in the market and is more likely to lead to price rises than price cuts.

This final decision to block the deal follows the publication of the CMA’s provisional findings and a subsequent consultation period, during which the CMA reviewed responses from a variety of interested parties, including Sainsbury’s and Asda themselves.

Further details are available on the Sainsbury’s / Asda case page.

Walmart, ASDA and Sainsbury's Statements

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has today published its Final Report on the proposed merger of Asda and Sainsbury’s, resulting in prohibition of the merger.

Despite the clear customer benefits of the proposed merger, as a result of the CMA’s findings, Asda, its parent Walmart and Sainsbury’s have mutually agreed to terminate the transaction.

Commenting on the proposed merger of Asda and Sainsbury’s, Judith McKenna, CEO of Walmart International, said:

“We have been clear from the beginning of the proposed merger about two things. Firstly, that retail is rapidly changing and standing still is not an option, and secondly that we will always ensure our international markets are strong local businesses powered by Walmart.

The UK remains one of the most competitive retail markets in the world and Asda’s seven consecutive quarters of year-on-year growth show it is a strong business with a clear strategy and focused leadership.

It was against that backdrop that we decided to explore the proposed merger with Sainsbury’s – an opportunity which would have further strengthened the Asda business and delivered real benefits for UK customers.

While we’re disappointed by the CMA’s final report and conclusions, our focus now is continuing to position Asda as a strong UK retailer delivering for customers. Walmart will ensure Asda has the resources it needs to achieve that.

I would like to personally thank and recognize Roger and the entire Asda team for their incredible focus and approach during the merger process. They have had the customer at their heart at every step, and I know they will continue to do so.”

Roger Burnley, CEO of Asda, commented:

“Asda’s DNA is delivering low prices for hard working families and that will never change. We were right to explore the potential merger with Sainsbury’s, which would have delivered great benefits for customers and supported the long term, sustainable success of our business. We’re disappointed with their findings but will continue to find ways to put money back into customer’s pockets and deliver great quality and service in an ever changing and demanding market. I have always been hugely aware that the last year has been an unsettling time for all of our colleagues and am immensely grateful for their commitment and dedication during that time. Our focus is now on the most important job we all have – delivering for our customers.”

Sainsbury's CEO, Mike Coupe, said:

"The specific reason for wanting to merge was to lower prices for customers. The CMA's conclusion that we would increase prices post-merger ignores the dynamic and highly competitive nature of the UK grocery market. The CMA is today effectively taking £1 billion out of customers' pockets.

"Sainsbury's is a great business and I am confident in our strategy. We are focused on offering our customers great quality, value and service and making shopping with us as convenient as possible."

Source : CMA 

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25 April 2019

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