The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a Statement of Issues outlining its preliminary views on Coles’ proposed acquisition of nine Supabarn supermarkets in NSW and the ACT.

The ACCC has come up with some surprising findings, such as the proposed acquisition is unlikely to lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the NSW and ACT markets for the wholesale supply and acquisition of supermarket and liquor products, not expected to be welcomed by ACT independent grocers and convenience stores.

The ACCC received approximately 60 submissions from consumers and held a consumer forum in Canberra in August about the proposed acquisition.

“The ACCC recognises that Supabarn has a differentiated offer to that of the other supermarkets and understands that this is valued by consumers,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

“Supabarn is the only full-line supermarket chain in the ACT other than Coles and Woolworths. The ACCC is concerned that Supabarn’s removal may lead to significant competitive harm and loss of choice for consumers.”

“The ACCC recognises, however, that there are other, smaller supermarkets operating in the ACT.”

Mr Sims added that the ACCC has identified potential concerns in a range of local markets. These concerns are particularly strong in Sans Souci and Sutherland in NSW, and Casey in the ACT where Supabarn is to open its largest store.

The ACCC said that it is also considering whether the proposed acquisition would be likely to lead to a substantial lessening of competition in the following markets:

    1. a local market for supermarket retailing surrounding the Annandale Supabarn store in NSW
    2. local markets for supermarket retailing surrounding each of the Kaleen, Crace, Canberra City, and Wanniassa Supabarn stores in the ACT
    3. a local market for the retail supply of takeaway liquor surrounding the Five Dock Supabarn store in NSW.

The ACCC invites further submissions from interested parties in response to the Statement of Issues by 1 October, 2015. Submissions can be emailed to Coles-Supabarn-Mergers@accc.gov.au

The ACCC expects to make a final decision on the proposed acquisition by 26 November 2015. The Statement of Issues is available on the public register: http://registers.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1187175/fromItemId/750991

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