Petrol and food prices could rise under Sainsbury's and Asda merger, competition authority warns
Sainsbury's and Asda would probably need to sell off a significant number of stores and potentially one of the two brands to address "extensive" concerns over their planned tie-up, the competition watchdog has warned.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would be "difficult for the companies to address the concerns it has identified" so far in its probe into the deal.
In provisional findings from its Phase 2 investigation, it said the merger could push up prices and reduce quality in store and online, while it could also lead to higher fuel costs at more than 100 locations where Sainsbury's and Asda petrol stations overlap.
The CMA said options to address concerns could include blocking the deal altogether, or forcing the chains to sell off a "significant" number of stores and potentially offloading either the Sainsbury's or Asda brand.
Stuart McIntosh, chairman of the independent inquiry group carrying out the CMA investigation, said: "These are two of the biggest supermarkets in the UK, with millions of people purchasing their products and services every day.
"We have provisionally found that, should the two merge, shoppers could face higher prices, reduced quality and choice, and a poorer overall shopping experience across the UK."
A spokesman for Sainsbury's and Asda said the provisional findings "misunderstand how people shop in the UK today".
"The CMA has moved the goalposts and its analysis is inconsistent with comparable cases," he added.