Sainsbury’s-Asda merger

Ten-year ban for Sainsbury's-Asda merger

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Asda and Sainsbury's cannot attempt another merger for at least 10 years, the Competition and Markets Authority has confirmed.

Formally closing its investigation into the proposed tie up, it said the supermarket giants were legally bound not to join forces for a decade, which is the standard CMA prohibition period.

The ban also applies to US giant Walmart, which is not allowed to acquire any interest in Sainsbury's as long as it still owns part of Asda.

The CMA blocked the tie-up in April over fears it would raise prices for consumers. The deal would have created the UK's biggest supermarket chain, accounting for £1 in every £3 spent on groceries.

'Reward for failure'

BBC Radio 5 Live

Wake Up To Money

Mike Coupe
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Mike Coupe, the chief executive of Sainbury's, has received a 7% pay rise to £3.8m after the collapse of the Asda deal because the competition authorities blocked the tie-up over fears it would raise prices for consumers.

Laura Lambie, senior investment director at Investec Wealth and Investment told Radio 5 Live's Wake Up To Money: "His performance has to be tied into what he’s paid for. It looks on the face of it as if he’s being rewarded for failure which is not good".

A year ago, Mr Coupe apologised after being caught on camera singing "We're in the money". He was filmed singing the words to the show tune as he was waiting to be interviewed for ITV News.

Sainsbury's/Asda deal could be blocked for ten years

woman shopping

The Competition and Markets Authority is proposing that any merger between Asda - owned by US retailer Walmart - and Sainsbury's should be blocked for ten years.

The proposal is outlined in documents published by the CMA following its decision to block the block the tie-up last month.

The CMA said the deal would raise prices for consumers, at the supermarkets' petrol stations and lead to longer checkout queues.

The competition watchdog is inviting comments by 5pm on Monday 24 June 2019.

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Time for a plan B?

Dominic O'Connell

Business Presenter, BBC Radio 4 Today programme

sainsbury's store
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Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe was not his usual tiggerish self when presenting this set of results. He gave the impression of someone trying to make the best of a less than ideal outcome – which, of course, he was.

In his ideal world he would have been talking about the final preparations for the merger with Asda, but that was blown out of the water by the Competition and Markets Authority last week.

Instead he was left to describe a fairly mundane set of annual results in glowing terms.

They show a company that is fighting hard on all fronts – trying to compete against aggressive low-price rivals and a resurgent Tesco, while at the same time finding the money to improve its stores, reduce debt and maintain dividend payments to shareholders.

Once you include restructuring costs, a £46m hit on the failed deal with Asda, statutory profits were down one-third to £219m – a tiny number for a company that has annual sales of £32bn.

Sainsbury insiders had warned against expecting a big strategic relaunch, a Plan B, after the Asda failure. Shareholders will still be disappointed that there wasn’t one, and will no doubt be pressing hard on whether – or rather when – it will emerge.

Investors waiting for concrete Sainsbury's plans

More on Sainsbury's.

John Moore, senior investment manager at Brewin Dolphin, said the figures were robust.

"The business may have lost market share, but it is still performing at a good level, aided by the integration and enhanced offering of Argos – the Asda transaction would have offered the potential to push this to another level.

While there is a commitment to increase and accelerate investment in the business from management, investors will be waiting for more concrete plans in the months ahead to see what Sainsbury’s next step will be," he said.