Supermarket Tesco and wholesaler Booker have requested the competition watchdog fast-track its investigation into their planned merger.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) began its investigation into the £3.7 billion ($4.81 billion) deal last month and was due to complete the first stage of its assessment by 25th July. If the request to be fast-tracked is accepted, the CMA would be expected to issue a stage one decision within ten working days.
The investigation could then proceed into a second stage, which would take roughly 24 weeks.
Concerns have been raised that the planned merger between the two retail giants could damage competition in the grocery market and reduce choice for consumers. Although Booker is a wholesale supplier rather than a public store, it owns Tesco’s rivals Budgens, Londis and Premier.
Tesco is the UK’s biggest food retailer, with 27.8% of the grocery market share. Sainsbury’s comes second but with a substantially smaller share, at 16%.
“It is possible to accelerate the referral of merger cases to phase two when requested by the merging companies and if the CMA has sufficient evidence that the test for reference is met,” said the CMA.
News of Tesco’s request to fast track the merger comes the day after the company said it will cut around 1,200 jobs in its head office.
“This new service model will simplify the way we organise ourselves, reduce duplication and cost but also, very importantly, allow us to invest in serving shoppers better,” a spokesperson said.