Thomas Cook calls in Competition Commission on Co-op deal

Thomas Cook calls in Competition Commission on Co-op deal

Thomas Cook has asked the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to fast-track the anti-trust approval of its proposed merger with the Co-op be proceeding directly to the Competition Commission (CC).

It is anticipated that the OFT will refer the case to the CC within the next three weeks and from thereon the CC will normally have up to six months to reach a decision.

However, Thomas Cook is hoping to speed up the process.

Thomas Cook chief executive, Manny Fontenla-Novoa, said: “We continue to believe there is compelling rationale for clearance, particularly when you consider previous decisions in our sector.

“We feel that proceeding straight to the Competition Commission should provide us with the right answer most quickly.

“Our view on the benefits of the transaction is unchanged and we remain fully committed to the merger.”

The OFT can choose to complete its own review before deciding whether to pass the matter to the CC. However, a fast-track procedure is in place.

Thomas Cook, the Co-operative Group and Midlands Co-operative in the UK, first outlined a plan to merge in October 2010.

The amalgamation would create a retail chain of up to 1,300 shops, although the authorities are likely to demand the sale of part of the business.

In a submission to the European Commission last December, the OFT suggested the merger threatened “to affect competition within the UK”.

It added: “The OFT considers there may be local competition concerns due to the concentration of retail outlets within certain local areas.”