Coop’s acquisition of Ica Norge cleared with remedies

The Norwegian Competition Authority has approved Coop’s acquisition of Ica Norge with remedies. Coop has offered to sell 43 grocery stores to Bunnpris and 50 grocery stores to Norgesgruppen to avoid restricting competition.

The Competition Authority found that the merger could lead to a significant restriction of competition in 90 local markets. To avoid the anti-competitive effects, Coop offered to sell a total of 93 stores to respectively Bunnpris and Norgesgruppen. The completion of these sales is a prerequisite for the Competition Authority’s approval.

This remedy protects national competition and consumer interests. Without the sale of stores, the acquisition would lead to restricted competition in a number of local markets, and it would also weaken competition in the national market, says Director General f Christine Meyer.

Coop has proposed remedies that eliminate these anti-competitive effects of the merger, and the Competition Authority has concluded that Coop’s choice of buyers – Bunnpris and Norgesgruppen – does not generate new competition problems.

Therefore, we have approved the acquisition, says Meyer, adding that both Bunnpris and Coop strengthen their positions in the market, and that this could be positive for competition.

Comprehensive caseThis has been a comprehensive and challenging case, says director Magnus Gabrielsen.

Coop is purchasing approximately 550 stores from Ica. All the affected markets for these 550 stores have been analysed, since the impact on local competition has been an important part of our assessment.

It has been important for us to avoid the anti-competitive effects that could arise with a merged Coop and Ica, and to avoid the resale of stores creating new competition problems, says Gabrielsen.

Facts

Coop’s acquisition of Ica Norge

• Coop has made an agreement to buy Ica Norge, which operates approximately 550 grocery stores in Norway.
• Coop’s notification of the merger was received by the Competition Authority on 5 November 2014, and the final deadline for a decision would have been 12 May 2015.
• In response to the Authority’s competition concerns, on 11 February 2015 Coop offered to sell stores in 102 markets as remedial measures. Revised proposals for remedial measures were put forward on 3 March 2015.
• The Authority approved the acquisition on 4 March 2015. Coop has offered to sell 93 stores in 90 markets. 43 of these are sold to Bunnpris and 50 to Norgesgruppen.
• Market shares for the five players in the Norwegian national market are Norgesgruppen (39 %), Rema 1000 (23.7 %), Coop (22.3 %), ICA Norge (10,4 %) and Bunnpris (3.6 %).

Avdelingsdirektør Magnus Gabrielsen.