FILE PHOTO: Shopping bags from Asda and Sainsbury's are seen in Manchester, Britain April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo
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The UK’s competition regulator said the “reference period” for considering the proposed takeover of Asda by J Sainsbury will be extended by eight weeks to April 30.

In a brief statement, the Competition and Markets Authority cited the “scope and complexity” of the investigation along with the need to consider issues raised by the two companies and third parties. “It is necessary to allow sufficient time to take full and proper account of comments that will be received in response to the inquiry group’s provisional findings”, it added.

The delay had been widely expected after a legal tussle between the two companies and the CMA last December, in which Sainsbury’s and Asda argued they had been given insufficient time to respond to requests for documentation.

The CMA is expected to reveal its provisional findings on the transaction shortly. No further extensions to the final determination will be allowed.

Combining Asda with Sainsbury’s would create the UK’s largest supermarket group with a market share of over 30 per cent. The two companies have argued that their increased scale will result in lower prices for consumers, but most observers think they will be required to sell off at least some stores in order to secure approval.

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