Tesco faces in-depth investigation into £3.7bn Booker takeover

Tesco faces in-depth investigation into £3.7bn Booker takeover

Tesco's £3.7 billion takeover of wholesaler Booker was officially referred for an in-depth probe today, with regulators identifying hundreds of areas where the deal could affect competition.

The Competition and Markets Authority has said it is concerned that wholesaler Booker, which owns the Londis, Premier and Budgens brands, could reduce the services it offers these "symbol" stores in an effort to drive customers to their local Tesco instead.

Among the concerns listed out by the CMA is that post merger, there is a possibility for Booker to cut down on the wholesale services or terms it provides to the symbol stores to which it has now committed to supply.

Tesco operates more than 3,000 stores across the United Kingdom, while Booker supplies services to over 5,000 "symbol" stores - independent grocers such as Premier, Londis, Budgens or Family Shopper. The proposed deal would turn Britain's biggest retailer into a major supplier to small retailers, serving 125,000 independent convenience stores as well as 468,000 restaurants and pubs.

Current boss Dave Lewis was parachuted in from Unilever to turn around the business, and under his leadership Tesco reported its first year of sales growth since 2010.

Pledging to publish its final report before Christmas, the investigation will now enter a new phase with an inquiry group chosen from an independent set of panel members. It will conduct further research and seek additional views and evidence on the deal.

"We look forward to continuing our constructive engagement with the CMA", added a Booker spokeswoman.

The CMA stated: "Other concerns were raised and considered in the CMA's phase 1 investigation but the CMA has not found it necessary to conclude on all of these concerns given the "fast track" referral".

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