Competition & Markets Authority
Supermarket petrol station merger could increase prices for motorists and shoppers
CMA investigation finds Asda’s purchase of 132 petrol stations and attached grocery stores from the Co-op could mean higher prices or less choice for motorists or shoppers in 13 areas.
In January 2023, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) opened a Phase 1 investigation into the completed acquisition by Asda of Arthur Foodstores Limited, a company set up by Co-op to sell its 132 petrol forecourt sites.
The CMA’s investigation focused on a number of local areas in which Asda and the Co-op sites that it acquired compete to provide fuel or groceries to customers. The CMA found that the deal raises competition concerns in 13 locations across the UK, in each of which the merging businesses currently compete for customers and would not face sufficient competition after the merger. The deal could therefore lead to consumers and businesses in these areas facing higher prices or lower quality services when shopping or buying fuel.
Asda told the CMA that competition concerns would not arise in these areas because the merger would enable Asda to bring its low-cost pricing model to more customers. But as the CMA’s investigation in this case focussed on local areas in which the merging businesses currently compete for customers, competition concerns only arise in areas in which Asda is already an important option for customers, who already have access to Asda prices. The CMA found that allowing Asda to acquire more sites in those areas, leaving it facing insufficient competition in future, could therefore risk worse outcomes for customers.
Colin Raftery, CMA Senior Director of Mergers, said:
Groceries and fuel account for a large part of most household budgets. As living costs continue to rise, it’s particularly important that deals that reduce competition among groceries and fuel suppliers don’t make the situation worse.
While competition concerns don’t arise in relation to the vast majority of the 132 sites bought by Asda, there’s a risk that customers could face higher prices or worse services in a small number of areas where Asda would face insufficient competition in either groceries or fuel after the deal goes through”.
Asda now has 5 working days to offer legally binding proposals to the CMA to address the competition concerns identified. The CMA would then have a further 5 working days to consider whether these proposals address its concerns, or if the case should be referred to an in-depth, Phase 2 investigation.
Notes to editors
For more information, please see the Asda/Arthur (Co-op) case page.
One of the 13 locations, in Earlston, Scotland, raised competition concerns in relation to the supply of both petrol and groceries. The 10 other petrol stations that raised concerns are in Barnard Castle; Calcutt, Caledonian Road; Gnosall (Station Road); Lauder; Minsterley; Oakdale (Ripon Road),Harrogate; Rochester; Stonehaven (Kirkton Road); and Weycock Cross in Barry. The two further areas that raised concerns in relation to groceries are the Co-op mid-size stores in St Columb Minor (Henver Road), and East Peckham.
Asda is controlled by Mr Zuber Issa, Mr Mohsin Issa, and the private equity firm TDR Capital, who together also own EG Group.
The transaction completed on 30 October 2022. The CMA served an initial enforcement order on 26 October 2022 under section 72(2) of the Enterprise Act 2002 on Asda, Mr Mohsin Issa, Mr Zuber Issa, TDR Capital, Co-op, and Arthur.
For more information, journalists should contact the CMA press office by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 020 3738 6460.
All enquiries from the public should be directed to the CMA’s General Enquiries team on email@example.com or 020 3738 6000.
Original article link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/supermarket-petrol-station-merger-could-increase-prices-for-motorists-and-shoppers
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