What the experts are saying about failed Sainsbury’s-Asda merger

The Competition and Markets Authority has decided to block Sainsbury’s merger with Asda, and analysts and pundits have delivered their verdicts.

– Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com

“The merger never looked like it would pass the CMA’s tests, however fickle the regulator may seem post Tesco-Booker.

“Mike Coupe remains absurdly disingenuous. ‘The specific reason for wanting to merge was to lower prices for customers,’ he said today in reply. No one, least of all the CMA, fell for it. Will Coupe stay? I doubt it, this could well be the time for Coupe to exit.”

– Clive Black, analyst at Shore Capital

“The referee has now blown the whistle on a deal that we give credit to its architect(s) for being bold but were set against a strategy and tactics that were most certainly not of a mould of the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson.

“Indeed, arrogance and naivety are words that come to mind when considering this proposed amalgamation from start to finish.

“At the heart of the proposed deal’s problems is an incorrect and over-extrapolation of the decision by the CMA, under a different managerial regime, to unconditionally clear the Tesco-Booker merger. We felt at the time that it was a surprising and poor decision.

“However, rather than analysing matters with a sense of rationality and perspective, Sainsbury and Asda seem to have decided that 1+1 can equal 10.”

– James Grzinic, analyst at Jefferies

“We are still of the view that private equity is exploring the potential for an offer for Asda, but Walmart’s release suggests that any proposal would require a pretty full price to tempt Walmart into a sale.”

– Caroline Normand, Which? director of advocacy

“The CMA is right to block this merger, which could have reduced competition in the sector resulting in a number of problems for shoppers including increased prices, reduced quality and choice, and a poorer shopping experience.

“Sainsbury’s and Asda have fallen behind the pack recently in this trusted sector – with both finishing in the bottom four of our annual supermarket survey as rivals like Aldi and Lidl have done a better job of giving shoppers what they want.”

– Tim Roache, GMB general secretary

“For Asda workers, this is the right decision after the CMA’s provisional findings.

“Swathes of stores and depots would have to have been sold off, with jobs put at risk and no real benefit for customers or communities.

“The workforce has been through months of uncertainty, worrying about what’s going to happen and wondering if their stores or depots would be sold from under them.

“It’s time for Asda to move on, and to give some stability and security to the staff who work day in, day out to make the company profitable.”

– Unite national officer Bev Clarkson

“Sainsbury’s workers will welcome news that proposed merger with Asda is off.

“The merger and possibility of store closures and job losses as a result has been unsettling, causing great uncertainty at a time when the supermarket imposed changes to contracts that has left many workers out of pocket.

“Staff will now look to senior management to give them certainty so they can concentrate on serving customers.”