Metcash is facing a legal battle against the ACCC as it looks to complete the acquisition of the Franklins chain of supermarkets

Metcash is facing a legal battle against the ACCC as it looks to complete the acquisition of the Franklins chain of supermarkets

Metcash has said it "welcomes" the court proceedings launched by the Australian competition watchdog to prevent the company from buying local supermarket chain Franklins.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has already blocked the move on competition grounds but, with Metcash refusing to throw in the towel, the regulator has sough court action.

However, Metcash chief executive Andrew Reitzer said yesterday (29 November) that the wholesaler was "delighted to have the opportunity for the Federal Court to determine whether we can proceed with the transaction".

Reitzer added: "We clearly have different views to the ACCC regarding the Australian grocery market and what will ultimately be in the best interests of all consumers."

Current Franklins owner Pick n Pay also welcomed the move, which will mean an expedited hearing of the sale. South African retailer Pick n Pay said the ACCC has agreed to lodge its case with the Federal Court by 8 December and to seek an expedited hearing of the case early next year.

Pick n Pay chairman Gareth Ackerman said: "The decision by the ACCC gives us certainty that the matter is moving to litigation in the Australian Federal Court and that there will be an expedited timetable. We believe the Federal Court is the appropriate forum to hear this matter and we are confident in our arguments."

The ACCC blocked the A$215m (US$203.9m) sale over concerns the planned acquisition would "result in a substantial lessening of competition through the removal of Metcash's closest and only genuine competitor for the wholesale supply of packaged groceries in NSW."