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Competition worries mount for Sainsbury's and Asda merger

May 1, 2018
Food & Drink

There were growing concerns about the impact of Sainsbury’s planned merger with Asda on Tuesday as new figures showed around nine million households shopped at both supermarket chains over the past three months.

The duo control around 31.4pc of Britain’s grocery market between them, according to the data from Kantar Worldpanel, comfortably ahead of current industry leader Tesco’s 27.6pc.

The deal, announced yesterday, is expected to face thorough scrutiny by the Competition and Markets Authority, which could force the chains to sell some of their stores before giving them the green light to merge.
The research also revealed the two suitors have been growing more slowly than their “Big Four” rivals, with Sainsbury’s sales up just 0.2pc in the 12 weeks to April 22 and Asda’s up 1.4pc compared with 2.1pc growth for Tesco and 2.2pc for Morrisons.

Kantar Worldpanel’s Fraser McKevitt said: “A merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda would transform the traditional landscape placing nearly a third of market share in the hands of the joint supermarket giant, though the march of the discounters – and any enforced store closures – could impact this figure.”

Sainsbury’s and Asda are likely to point to their geographical differences in defending the merger, with the former deriving almost 60pc of its sales from London and the south-east and latter generating two thirds of its revenues elsewhere.

Mr McKevitt said Sainsbury’s also attracts more affluent shoppers, with 62pc of its sales coming from the well-heeled “ABC1” demographic, compared with 46pc for Asda.

German discounters Aldi and Lidl have continued to draw away the supermarket giants’ customers, enjoying a combined market share of 12.7pc in the period. But their growth slowed to 7.7pc and 9.1pc respectively, having both enjoyed double-digit surges in recent months.

Asda and Sainsbury’s merger will create a company with 2,800 stores, 330,000 staff and £51bn in combined revenues.

Mike Coupe, Sainsbury’s chief executive, has insisted there are no plans to close any stores as a result of the deal and said it would lead to lower prices for consumers.

But he dropped a PR clanger yesterday as he was caught on camera singing “Who’s in the money” while preparing for an interview with ITV news. His own shares increased in value by more than £600,000 after news of the deal sent Sainsbury’s stock price up 17pc yesterday.

Sainsbury’s has agreed to hand Asda’s owner Walmart £3bn as part of the deal, and the US giant will own 41pc of the combined business. But it nonetheless expects to book a $2bn (£1.5bn) loss on its ownership of the chain, which it bought for £6.7bn in 1999.

The deal has led to concern among politicians, with small business minister Andrew Griffiths and Labour’s shadow business minister Rebecca Long-Bailey both urging the CMA to investigate.

By Jack Torrance

Source: The Telegraph

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