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UK CMA halts JD Sports' plan to acquire Footasylum

The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority, or CMA, on Dec. 4 issued an interim order against JD Sports Fashion PLC proceeding any further with its planned acquisition of Footasylum PLC until the competition watchdog concludes the second phase of its investigation.

"Except with the prior written consent of the CMA, Pentland and JD Sports shall not, during the specified period, take any action which might prejudice the reference or impede the taking of any action under the act by the CMA which may be justified by the CMA's decisions on the reference ..." the regulator said in its latest ruling.

The CMA first disclosed that it is investigating the deal May 17. It formally launched the probe in July and released the findings from the first phase of its investigation in September. At the time, the CMA said the acquisition could result in higher prices, less choice and reduced service quality for customers.

On Oct. 1, the regulator ordered a full-scale investigation into JD Sports' proposed takeover of the footwear retailer over worries that the merger will reduce market competition. This represents the second phase of the probe and it is expected to conclude March 16, 2020.

As part of the interim order, the CMA ordered both parties to maintain separate business operations, including assets, contracts, customer and supplier lists, business plans and staffing. It expects both companies to submit a compliance statement Dec. 13, and subsequently every four weeks.

In addition, the CMA said JD Sports and Footasylum must keep it informed of any material developments such as key staff changes, business interruptions, substantial customer volumes won or lost or substantial changes to the customer contracts, and substantial changes in contractual arrangements or relationships with key suppliers.

JD Sports and Footasylum did not immediately respond to S&P Global Market Intelligence's requests for comment.