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UK competition watchdog warns Heineken and Punch over pub merger

13 Juin 2017

Heineken's £403 million takeover of pub chain Punch Taverns could impact competition and see pub goers face higher prices in 33 areas across Britain, the competition watchdog has warned.

"This decision by the CMA acknowledges that there are only a small number of local areas where competition may be diminished due to our acquisition of the pubs", said David Forde, managing director for Heineken UK.

Heineken has until 20 June to address the CMA's concerns.

The watchdog said the newly combined company's pubs "would not face sufficient competition after the merger, which could lead to price increases or a deterioration in the quality of the service on offer".

Andrea Coscelli, CMA acting chief executive and decision maker in the case, said: "We have listened very carefully to a range of concerns about this merger".

The CMA said the 1,895 Punch pubs being snapped up by Heineken, which it will add to 1,100 leased pubs it already owns across the United Kingdom, only account for 4% of the market and is therefore "not a major route to market for brewers". It found that any potential reduction would be limited, taking into account the drinks that Punch stocks and the range of drinks available in Heineken-owned pubs.

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"We are confident we can offer the CMA suitable undertakings to satisfy their concerns", he said.

Heineken teamed up with Patron Capital in December to buy Punch Taverns for 402.7 million pounds ($510 million), edging out a co-founder of the company who was also preparing a bid.

Heineken and Patron will split Punch into two businesses post acquisition.

The parties are "confident" that these proposals will enable the transaction to be approved by the CMA without an in-depth investigation and that completion will occur by the end of August 2017 as communicated previously.

The preliminary CMA investigation concluded that the deal would not damage the chances of Heineken's competitors selling their own products, as the pubs being bought only make up 4% of the market.

UK competition watchdog warns Heineken and Punch over pub merger