City Pub Group plc raised £35m in its IPO last year
Rebecca Wayman

Luton pub merger needs to address local concerns before acquisition

Luton-headquartered Stonegate Pub Company’s proposed purchase of Ei Group is said to not raise national competition concerns but could be damaging in 51 local areas.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been investigating the anticipated £3bn deal between the two pub groups.

Together, the two groups operate close to 5,000 pubs across the UK, including popular chains, such as the Slug and Lettuce and Yates, as well as a large number of unbranded pubs.

After completing its initial Phase 1 investigation, the CMA has found that the purchase does not raise competition concerns on a UK-wide basis.

While the merged business will be the largest pub group in the UK, it will continue to face competition at the national level from several other large pub groups.

The CMA has also investigated the potential impact of the merger in more than 500 local areas across the UK, in which both businesses currently have premises.

While sufficient competition will remain after the merger in most cases, the CMA found that the deal could reduce choice for pub goers in 51 local areas where the combined business would face only limited competition.

The CMA is therefore concerned that, if the businesses were to merge, pub goers in those areas could be faced with price increases or lower quality products and services.

The companies now have until next Friday (December 13) to suggest ways of overcoming these concerns.

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