CMA probes Asda sale to Issa brothers, TDR Capital

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced it has formally launched an inquiry into the £6.8 billion acquisition of Leeds-based Asda from Walmart Inc. by the Blackburn-based petrol station billionaire Issa brothers and private equity group TDR Capital LLP.

The Issa brothers are the founders and co-CEOs of EG Group, a global convenience store and petrol station forecourts retailer.

The CMA said it has invited interested parties to comment by December 22 and has set a February 18, 2021, deadline for a “phase 1” decision.

Walmart’s attempt to sell Asda to Sainsbury’s for £7.3 billion last year was blocked by the CMA — but analysts have speculated the latest deal has a better chance of success.

However, some observers believe the CMA may ask the Issa brothers to divest some of their EG assets.

A spokesman for TDR Capital and the Issa brothers said they had expected the CMA probe.

“We are looking forward to working constructively with the CMA to address any questions they may have,” said the spokesman.

The CMA said: “The CMA has launched its phase 1 investigation following the European Commission’s decision to refer the case to the United Kingdom, following a request by the merging parties under Article 4(4) of the EC Merger Regulation.

“The CMA’s current statutory deadline to announce its decision is 18 February 2021.

“The CMA is inviting comments from any interested party on the impact that the Merger could have on competition in the UK, until 22 December 2020 …

“The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is considering whether it is or may be the case that this transaction, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and, if so,  whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result, in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services.”