THE COMPETITION watchdog has confirmed that Morrisons can complete its £7 billion takeover by a US private equity firm after agreeing to the new owner’s plan to sell dozens of petrol stations.
Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R) won a lengthy auction to buy the Bradford-based grocer last year in a deal worth around £7 billion.
The investment giant also owns Motor Fuel Group (MFG), the UK’s largest independent petrol station operator, which runs 921 forecourts across the country.
Meanwhile, Morrisons runs 339 petrol stations across England, Scotland and Wales.
In January, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) opened an investigation into the move as it raised concerns that the deal could lead to higher petrol prices for some customers.
But the CMA said it has now formally accepted an offer from CD&R to sell 87 of its MFG-run forecourts in areas of concern in order to push the takeover through.
Last month, the regulator said it was considering the offer and was “minded to accept” the move.
It added that the proposal appeared “to be suitable to restore the loss of competition brought about by the deal across each of the 121 local areas in which the concerns were identified”.
The CMA said that, while the number of sites proposed for sale is lower than the number of areas previously highlighted, the sale of some petrol stations will address concerns in multiple areas.
On Thursday, the watchdog confirmed that CD&R will need to sell 87 sites to purchasers it has approved.
Last year, Asda buyers the Issa brothers and TDR Capital agreed to sell 27 petrol stations in order to secure their takeover of the supermarket chain following similar competition concerns by the CMA.
David Potts, Morrisons chief executive, said: “I am pleased the acquisition has cleared the final regulatory hurdle and we can now work closely with CD&R on the path ahead.
“Following hard on the heels of Covid, the cost-of-living crisis is another critical period for food retailers in the UK and there is important work ahead of us as we look to help customers and colleagues through these difficult economic times.”
Sir Terry Leahy, senior adviser to CD&R and former Tesco chief, said: “We welcome today’s announcement and the CMA’s thoughtful engagement throughout the process.
“We are delighted to be supporting Morrisons on the next stage of their journey and to working closely with the team to grow the business and provide quality, value, service and choice – shopping trip attributes that have long been the company’s tradition.”