Asda’s deal of around £600 million to buy Co-op petrol forecourts could result in “higher prices or less choice” for motorists and shoppers in 13 locations, the UK competition watchdog has warned.
The Competitions and Market Authority (CMA) opened an investigation into the acquisition of 132 petrol stations and adjoining shops in January.
On Tuesday, the CMA said the takeover 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 UK’s third largest supermarket chain, which was bought by the billionaire Issa brothers and private equity backers TDR Capital, secured the takeover in October as part of plans to grow its petrol station business.
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.”
Mohsin Issa, co-owner of Asda, said: “We look forward to working constructively with the CMA over the coming days as we consider their findings.
“We remain committed to our long-term strategy to build a convenience business and bring Asda’s great value in fuel and groceries to more customers and communities throughout the UK.”