Australia’s competition watchdog has sought more comment on A&R Whitcoulls’s plan to acquire rival Borders.
A&R Whitcoulls is owned by Pacific Equity Partners, a private equity group that is believed to want to roll the combined operations into a company it can later float.
It has already been given clearance to buy the New Zealand Borders operation – but today the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission issued a statement saying such a deal might have the potential to reduce in-store-wide discounts or customer loyalty programs.
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Increased prices on a range of (non-key) titles was another issue likely to raise concerns. In a statement of issues it sought further information on “certain competition issues” arising from the ACCC’s market inquiries.
The ACCC invites further submissions from the market on these matters by 5 December.
A&R Whitcoulls is one of two remaining bidders for the chain’s trans-Tasman operations. The other is thought to be a joint venture between New Zealand’s Paper Plus and an unidentified offshore investor.