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Sainsbury's, Asda secure more time in CMA merger probe

The Competition Appeal Tribunal granted J Sainsbury PLC and Asda Stores Ltd.'s request for more time to review evidence and submit documents to support their proposed merger, which the Competition and Markets Authority, or CMA, is investigating.

In a brief statement released Dec. 14, the U.K. grocers said the court ruled in their favor and found that the timetable for responding to materials and attending a main party hearing were both "unfair."

"The parties took this step reluctantly and look forward to re-engaging with the CMA and Panel and working constructively with them going forward," Sainsbury's and Walmart Inc.-owned Asda said.

However, the supermarket operators did not get the additional 11 working days they originally sought. In an email to S&P Global Market Intelligence, a CMA spokesperson said that the court confirmed that it is for the regulator to set its own timetable and that it does not need to grant the parties' request to extend until Jan. 4, 2019.

"The CMA will now consider how much more time to give the parties," the spokesperson said. "Our first priority in this investigation has, and will continue to be, assessing if shoppers would face higher prices or a lower quality of service as a result of the merger and, if so, to prevent that from happening."

The development came a day after the regulator deferred its plan to submit its initial view of the merger early next year. It still expects to release the final report March 5, 2019.