OFT refers Booker's Makro buy to Competition Commission

Thu Nov 8, 2012 3:20pm GMT

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(Reuters) - Britain's competition regulator said it has referred Booker Group's (BOK.L) acquisition of Makro Holdings to the Competition Commission for investigation over concerns that it may reduce competition between cash-and-carry outlets in the United Kingdom.

"The merger brings together two close cash and carry competitors and reduces the number of national operators from four (Booker, Makro, Bestway and Costco) to three," the Office of Fair Trading OFT.UL said.

Booker, Britain's biggest cash-and-carry wholesaler with more than 170 branches, bought Makro — the loss-making British cash & carry operations of German retailer Metro AG (MEOG.DE) for 140 million pounds ($223.82 million) in May.

Booker, which supplies caterers, convenience stores, grocers, restaurants and pubs, said it looked forward to working with the Competition Commission through the inquiry.

The company also said Makro UK would continue to be held separate from the rest of company until the inquiry was complete.

Shares in Booker were down 2.5 percent at 101.8 pence at 1513 GMT on the London Stock Exchange on Thursday.

(Reporting by Karen Rebelo in Bangalore; Editing by Joyjeet Das)

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