Germany’s competition watchdog has again pushed back the deadline for a decision on the proposed merger of local discount chains Netto and Plus.

The German Federal Cartel Office today (12 June) confirmed that its discussions with the owners of the chains – Edeka and Tengelmann – are ongoing and the new deadline is 1 July.

The talks, which have rumbled on for weeks, were due to end on 20 June. Speculation is mounting that Edeka or Tengelmann will have to sell off stores to get the deal through.

The two retailers signed a deal to merge their discount chains in November. Under the agreement, Edeka plans to take a 70% stake in a venture that will run the Netto and Plus outlets.

The venture will operate around 4,200 stores in total, generating annual sales of about EUR11bn (US$17.1bn).

Reports in Germany have claimed that the two retailers will have to sell up to 400 stores to secure the green light for the deal.

However, a spokesman for the cartel office refused to be drawn on the reports. “We cannot confirm or deny any figures,” he told just-food.

Officials at Edeka and Tengelmann could not be reached for comment as just-food went to press.