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Author Topic: Sainsbury's-Asda merger in doubt amid price rise concerns – as it happened  (Read 241 times)


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Sainsbury's-Asda merger in doubt amid price rise concerns – as it happened

Competition regulator finds merger could have an impact on choice and reduce qualitySainsbury’s-Asda merger in doubt over ‘extensive competition concerns’ 3.00pm GMT Andrew Tyrie was only appointed as head of the Competition and Markets Authority in April 2018, after retiring as an MP. He has already made his mark within 12 months, with a decision which could affect the lives of millions of Britons.The Sainsbury’s-Asda merger is not out for the count yet, but it is on the ropes after the CMA said it is “likely to be difficult” for its concerns to be assuaged. The deal, which the supermarkets are still pursuing, would create a new giant in the British grocery sector – a prospect the competition regulator cannot yet stomach. 2.33pm GMT US markets have opened with barely a flutter. Tumbleweed on Wall Street with barely any movement on trade talks between the US and China.The Nasdaq, the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average have all moved by less than 0.05% either way. 2.09pm GMT A French court today ruled that UBS must pay fines totaling €4.5bn (£3.9bn) after the Swiss investment bank was found to have illegally solicited clients in France and to have laundered the proceeds of tax evasion.The penalties, which exceed the bank’s net profit last year, included a €3.7bn fine and additional damages of €800m to the French state, Reuters reported. The damages are larger than UBS’s profits last year, and more than double the amount the bank had set aside to cover legal costs. UBS strongly disagrees with the verdict. The bank has consistently contested any criminal wrongdoing in this case throughout the investigation and during the trial. The conviction is not supported by any concrete evidence, but instead is based on the unfounded allegations of former employees who were not even heard at the trial. 1.55pm GMT The head of the UK’s cybersecurity agency today appeared to suggest that security risks posed by Huawei can be managed, in a boost to the embattled Chinese telecoms company. 1.00pm GMT Lloyds Banking Group has shrugged off growing fears over Brexit as it unveiled a £4bn payout to shareholders, despite reporting smaller-than-expected annual profits.Read the full story here: Related: Lloyds bullish over Brexit as £4bn payout to investors unveiled  12.50pm GMT  The European Medicines Agency, which is moving from Britain to Amsterdam owing to Brexit, on Wednesday lost a court battle to cancel the lease on its London headquarters.  12.35pm GMT It has not been a great day for British retail and the closely related property industry, with Intu Properties the biggest faller on the FTSE 250.The company has been the subject of takeover activity and speculation over the last year, but as this has subsided attention is now on the future. As things stand, the business is caught in a catch-22 of needing to cut its debt but also having to invest in its centres, which makes it difficult to see where Intu goes next.” 12.20pm GMT Halfway through the British trading day and European stock market investors are having a more pleasant day than yesterday.Germany’s Dax index is leading the way, with a 0.3% gain. The FTSE 100 and the FTSE 250 have both gained around 0.2%. 11.54am GMT The CBI’s manufacturing data presents some mixed messages, say City economists.Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, said: “An overall better-than-expected CBI industrial trends survey that points to the manufacturing sector being relatively resilient in February despite a lacklustre domestic economy, a weaker global economic environment and heightened Brexit uncertainties.”The pick-up in the total orders balance in February to its 2018 average level suggests that the recent downturn in manufacturing output is just a blip, but we doubt it is giving an accurate steer at present. 11.28am GMT Three MPs have resigned the Conservative whip today, joining the independent group of ex-Labour MPs who broke away from their former party on Monday, in a move which could affect Brexit negotiations.Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen – all of whom backed a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU – said the Tories had moved to the right, particularly on Brexit. Related: Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen quit Conservative party – Politics Live  11.16am GMT Output growth from UK manufacturers slowed in the three months to February, according to the latest survey of the sector by the Confederation of British Industry.However, order books for domestic and export markets improved slightly from a weaker January, to remain above the average since 1995. The balance of firms saying total orders had increased rather than decreased rose to 6%, up from a negative 1% reading in January.The time for Brexit compromise to support the UK manufacturing industry is now. The clock is ticking quickly towards crisis point. 10.37am GMT The FTSE 100 is roughly flat at mid-morning trading, with stronger performances from easyJet and Lloyds Banking Group sustaining London’s blue-chip index.Lloyds shares rose by almost 3% after it revealed a £4bn dividend and share buyback plan, although its £4.4bn profits came in slightly below expectations. 10.31am GMT The big business news earlier this week was Honda’s decision to close its Swindon factory in 2021. Honda insisted that its reasons had nothing to do with Brexit, triggering an intense debate. Related: 'Fanciful' to say Honda didn't consider Brexit when closing Swindon  Related: Honda's decision is a vote of no confidence in Britain’s future  10.15am GMT The UK’s leading consumer group says it will call for the CMA to block Sainsbury’s-Asda deal if the extensive issues the competition regulator identified are not addressed.Which? has previously argued that it is not clear whether the £500m benefits highlighted by the supermarkets will be enjoyed by consumers or shareholders.If the merger is set to cause the range of problems that these findings indicate, including shoppers facing increased prices, reduced quality and a poorer shopping experience, then the CMA must intervene to prevent it from going ahead. 10.04am GMT Clive Black, veteran retail analyst at Shore Capital, has just talked to us on the Sainsbury’s-Asda merger.He says he has been critical of the CMA in the past, but reckons the watchdog “deserves some credit’ for its provisional verdict on the planned Sainsbury’s-Asda merger – noting that the proposed remedies “more or less eviscerate it”.A duopoly doesn’t tend to work in consumers’ interests. 9.58am GMT In case you had forgotten on a morning dominated by a resolutely non-Brexit story, the clock is very much still ticking. There are 37 days to go until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU. There is still no deal in place.In the latest in our series on the Brexit frontline, Julia Kollewe looks at how pharmaceutical companies across the UK are preparing for a possible no-deal Brexit. Related: What are Brexit contingency plans for pharmaceutical industry?  9.39am GMT Glencore, the FTSE 100 mining and commodities trading company, has surprised investors with a pledge to limit coal production “broadly to current levels”.The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that coal has no role to play in a low-carbon future, but Glencore has recently made acquisitions in the coal industry and previously made forecasts of increased production of the thermal coal used for power generation – a major source of carbon dioxide emissions.However, it’s actions, not words, that matter. Glencore’s South East Asian coal frenzy will be a true test of the company’s commitment to the Paris goals. ShareAction will watch closely to make sure Glencore stays faithful to today’s commitments. 9.20am GMT Sainsbury’s angry reaction on Monday to the findings has not been welcomed.It comes after a rancorous competition investigation in which the supermarkets launched a pre-Christmas legal challenge against the CMA in an effort to gain extra time.We believe it is bordering on laughable for the Group to state; ‘We are surprised that the CMA would choose to reject the opportunity to put money directly into customers’ pockets’, when we always felt that [the promise of] 10% price cuts on unspecified products on an unspecified timeframe was playing to the galleries.Sainsbury looks like it has misunderstood the consumer and the CMA.  9.11am GMT Would the deal as proposed have benefited British shoppers?The Competition and Markets Authority was right to put significant demands on any merger, according to John Colley, professor of practice at Warwick Business School.Choice will be reduced as there will be only one major competitor and the market is already highly competitive as Aldi and Lidl offer low prices, which the big four either have to meet, or offer better value in terms of range, quality, and service.Major savings through the merger in terms of reduced overheads, buying prices, and store closures will not be passed onto consumers unless there is a major change in the competitive landscape. This seems unlikely as it is not clear than Amazon are going to enter the grocery market with any substance. 9.07am GMT Perhaps the biggest problem for Sainsbury’s and Asda is the sheer size of their networks.The deal would combine two of the top three supermarkets, reducing competition among the top power players. 9.00am GMT It is safe to say that Mike Coupe is not happy with the CMA.“They have fundamentally moved the goalposts, changed the shape of the ball and chosen a different playing field,” he told BBC radio.A UK plc with Brexit looming, and a completely unpredictable set of competition rules, who would invest in this country? This is just outrageous. Related: Sainsbury's-Asda merger in doubt over 'extensive competition concerns'  8.56am GMT So will it still happen? Analysts do not sound hopeful.Richard Lim, chief executive of Retail Economics, a consultancy, said the findings “deliver a hammer blow to the potential tie-up”.Competition in the industry is fiercer than ever before and at the heart of this proposed deal is the need to drive further efficiencies through scale.The scope of any potential recommendations in the final stage may be too much to  Year-to-date (YTD) for the deal to survive. 8.46am GMT Back on those potential remedies. The supermarkets quickly came out and said they will continue to push for the deal to go through, so what can they actually do now?Before the CMA’s findings most analysts’ thinking was concentrated on the number of divestitures: selling off stores in areas where competition would be affected.It is not clear at this stage that a suitable package of assets could be found to provide an effective and comprehensive remedy. 8.35am GMT The CMA’s findings will heap pressure on executives at both supermarkets, who had tried to sell the deal as one which would give customers a 10% price cut. 8.23am GMT The CMA knows this will be a contentious decision, and has got out of the traps early in trying to persuade the public on Twitter.We've provisionally found that the proposed Sainsbury’s / Asda merger could lead to: Higher prices for groceries ⛽ Higher fuel prices Less choice and worse quality for shoppersRead more: .:https://t.co/lMdbRmQHnJ pic.twitter.com/MMVuCI2gU9Said in @TheGrocer last year it looked like a tough review for Sainsbury's and Asda. That's turned out to be an understatement of epic proportions. .:https://t.co/fZzpOJc67ISainsbury ’s Mike Coupe on radio 4 says CMA decision today which pretty much blocks his merger with Asda is “outrageous” and he “reserves the right to take it further” (ie a judicial review).... dismisses suggestions his job is on the line 8.13am GMT A reminder that the market value of Sainsbury’s last night was £6.34bn. Shares are now down by 15%.A fall of that magnitude, if sustained today, would translate to well over £900m wiped off its value – although the real losers will be those who bought in after the deal was announced. 8.06am GMT The FTSE 100 has risen by 0.2% as trading opens on the London Stock Exchange – but all eyes are on Sainsbury’s, which has lost 12%.Fellow supermarket Morrisons has fallen by 4.6%, while Tesco is down by 1.1% in spillover from the deal. 7.59am GMT The choice is stark for the merger to go ahead.There are two potential structural remedies, the CMA said. Neither will be welcomed by the companies:(a) prohibition of the Merger; or(b) requiring the divestiture to a suitable party (or parties) of assets and operations sufficient to address effectively each of the SLCs [substantial lessening of competition] identified in the provisional findings. 7.55am GMT Traders expect Sainsbury’s shares to fall by between 5% and 10% when markets open at 8am GMT.Sainsbury’s shares hit lows of 225.5p in March 2018, before the merger announcement, before surging to above 340p in August. While they have lost ground since then, they still remained well above the level before the deal emerged. 7.46am GMT Here’s some more detail on the CMA’s findings, published this morning.The £10bn merger of the UK’s second and third-largest supermarkets would create a “substantial lessening of competition at both a national and local level”, the CMA said. 7.38am GMT Sainsbury’s boss told the BBC the findings were “outrageous” and he would continue to challenge them.Chief executive Mike Coupe described the CMA’s analysis as “fundamentally flawed” and said the firm would be making “very strong representations” to it about its “inaccuracy and lack of objectivity”. 7.25am GMT Despite the strong words from the CMA, the supermarkets say they will continue to fight.Here’s the joint statement from Sainsbury’s and Asda in full:These findings fundamentally misunderstand how people shop in the UK today and the intensity of competition in the grocery market. The CMA has moved the goalposts and its analysis is inconsistent with comparable cases.Combining Sainsbury’s and Asda would create significant cost savings, which would allow us to lower prices. Despite the savings being independently reviewed by two separate industry specialists, the CMA has chosen to discount them as benefits.  7.22am GMT The Competition and Markets Authority has on Wednesday morning dropped a bombshell in the merger talks between Sainsbury’s and Asda which would create the biggest British supermarket.It is “likely to be difficult for the companies to address the concerns it has identified”, the CMA said. Continue reading...

Source: .:https://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2019/feb/20/sainsburysasda-merger-in-doubt-amid-price-rise-concerns-business-live


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