Affected market: Grocery retailing
Please note that square brackets indicate figures which have been
deleted or replaced with a range at the request of the parties for
reasons of commercial confidentiality.
The OFT's decision on reference under section 33 given on 18 October
Tesco plc (Tesco) is a large national grocery retailer operating
both one-stop grocery stores and smaller grocery stores. Wm Morrison
Supermarkets plc (Morrison) is a large grocery retailer, which also
operates a wide variety of grocery stores.
On 8 March 2004, Morrison acquired Safeway plc by way of a scheme of
arrangement. Under the terms of the undertakings given by Morrison on 8
December 2003 to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (the
Undertakings), Morrison must divest 52 grocery stores (the divestment
stores) to address local competition concerns identified by the
Competition Commission (CC) in its report on the proposed acquisition of
Safeway (the CC Report)(see [note 1]). Tesco proposes to acquire
10 one-stop stores (the acquired stores), all of which are divestment
stores, from Morrison. The acquired stores are in the following areas:
- Carnforth (near Leicester)
- Dinnington (Sheffield)
- Garforth (Leeds)
- Ingleby Barwick (Cleveland, near Middlesborough)
- Newton le Willows (near Warrington)
- Redcar (near Middlesborough)
- Sheffield Infirmary
- St Helens (near Liverpool)
- Sheldon, Birmingham
The parties submitted a merger notice on 20 September 2004 and the
unextended statutory deadline is 18 October 2004.
Before announcing its decision under the Enterprise Act 2002 (the Act),
the OFT had to be satisfied that the transaction met the terms of the
Undertakings. The OFT concluded that the terms had been met on 15
As a result of this transaction Tesco and the acquired stores will cease
to be distinct. The UK turnover attributable to the acquired stores
exceeds £70 million (see [note 2]) so the turnover test in
section 23(1)(b) of the Enterprise Act 2002 (the Act) is satisfied. A
relevant merger situation will therefore be created.
The CC concluded in the CC Report that one-stop shopping in grocery
stores of 1,400 square metres and above (large stores) constituted a
relevant frame of reference for the purposes of their
inquiries. Typically in a local area, only large stores cater for
one-stop shopping, and thus are not generally constrained effectively by
smaller grocery stores for customers of this type of shopping, as such
stores do not stock a sufficiently wide product range to fulfil
customers' needs for a weekly grocery shop. Each of the acquired stores
falls within the definition of one-stop grocery store, as used in the CC
Report. The product frame of reference for this case is therefore
one-stop grocery shopping as defined by the CC.
The CC concluded that the geographic frame of reference was essentially
local because of the limited distance that most customers were willing
to travel for their regular shopping trip. However, the CC did recognise
that there were national aspects to competition which should also be
considered, as many important decisions (such as pricing and
advertising) (see [note 3]) were taken at national level and
implemented locally. We therefore analysed competition both nationally
and locally (using the CC's isochrone methodology for the latter).
As a result of the merger, Tesco's share of national one-stop shopping
would increase from [25-35] per cent to [25-35] per cent based on
TNS till roll data and from [25-30] per cent to [25-30] per cent
based on IGD (see [note 4]) data. No national concerns arise as
a result of this merger on the basis of such a small increment.
In order to assess local issues the parties provided isochrone analysis
using the methodology set out in the CC report. No local areas were
identified as 'problem areas' on this basis. Moreover, the acquired
stores were listed in the CC report as mandatory divestments, due to a
loss of local competition when initially acquired by Morrison. Appendix
5.6 of CC report shows that all of the 10 acquired stores could be
acquired by Tesco without a loss of local competition.
None of the competitors or suppliers contacted identified any issues
relating to changes in local conditions, nor did they consider the
transaction raised any local competition concerns. Some other
unsolicited responses to the Invitation to Comment (ITC) did, however,
raise specific concerns about the following areas:
- Newton le Willows
- St Helens
These concerns were based on the fact of one or more Tesco stores being
within a certain radius (in miles) rather than drivetime of the target
acquired store and included Tesco stores below 1,400 sq m, which the CC
found were not effective competitors in one-stop shopping. With respect
to all of these stores, there was no overlap between the acquired stores
and Tesco one-stop stores in the primary isochrone, thus for those
customers in the primary isochrone, the transaction will increase the
choice of fascia. Furthermore, upon recentring the isochrone around
other effective competitors and centres of population (as defined by the
Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM)), no reduction in the number
of competing fascia to three or less was identified. No evidence was
provided which would warrant a departure from the CC's methodology.
In summary, the isochrone analysis provided by the parties points to the
conclusion that this merger does not raise local competition concerns,
as analysed in the CC Report, as in no local area will the number of
competing fascias be reduced to three or less. No local concerns
therefore arise as a result of this merger.
Barriers to entry and expansion
The CC Report sets out that barriers to entry and expansion are high for
large stores. We have not received any evidence which would warrant
departing from this conclusion.
As customers are usually individuals, countervailing buyer power is not
an issue in relation to this acquisition.
Tesco submitted that this transaction will have a negligible impact on
Tesco's purchasing power. Using TNS national grocery sales as a proxy
for its share of groceries purchased from suppliers, Tesco's share of
grocery purchasing in the UK, was [20-25] per cent (see note
5). One third party raised a concern about the increase in
Tesco's buyer power as a result of the transaction. Based on TNS data,
the national share of one-stop grocery sales attributable to the
acquired stores is estimated to be [less than 1] per cent and the
turnover of the acquired stores represents [less than 1] per cent of
Tesco's total UK turnover. Given the very modest increment, no vertical
concerns arise as a result of this merger.
THIRD PARTY VIEWS
Of the competitors and suppliers contacted, the vast majority did not
have concerns. One supplier raised a concern with respect the increase
in Tesco's buyer power. There were also a number of unsolicited
responses to the ITC. As noted earlier, specific concerns were raised in
relation to the stores located in Carnforth, Garforth, Newton le
Willows, Sheldon, Dinnington and St Helens and these are addressed
This merger raises no horizontal competition concerns at either national
or local level. Furthermore, no vertical competition concerns are
raised. Consequently, the OFT does not believe that it is or may be the
case that the merger may be expected to result in a substantial
lessening of competition within a market or markets in the United
This merger will therefore not be referred to the Competition Commission
under section 33(1) of the Act.
- Cm 5950.
- Tesco estimated that the turnover associated with the acquired stores
for the last financial year was £[ ] million.
- Para. 2.51.
- Institute of Grocery Distribution
- For the 52 weeks ending April 2004.