Tesco's takeover of Booker Wholesale has been confirmed by the Competition and Markets Authority without any reservations. The CMA has denied this could happen, believing that retailers would change symbol groups or seek new suppliers if prices increased.
One of the major concerns for independent retailers previously highlighted by the regulator were fears that Tesco would increase Booker's wholesale prices to independent retailers in order to drive sales in its Tesco Express and One Stop stores.
"My only concern would be for local suppliers that supply Bookers, will Tesco dictate what price they are willing to pay for their goods and squeeze their margins even more", says Patel.
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).
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It said they argued that Booker could raise prices to the shops it supplies.
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 Times quoted analysts at Bernstein as saying that the CMA's provisional approval was a positive catalyst for Tesco's share price as it reduced uncertainty over this deal.
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The CMA began its investigation in May and launched an in-depth probe in July after Tesco and Booker asked for the inquiry to be fast-tracked. The regulator's final decision will then be published by December 26 at the latest.
Retail analyst Bruno Monteyne at Bernstein said the tie-up would make Tesco "not only the biggest grocer in the United Kingdom but also one of the fastest growing food retailers in the United Kingdom for many years to come". Nisa members yesterday narrowly approved the £143 milion takeover of the chain by the Co-Operative Group, following an earlier abortive takeover by Sainsbury's.
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