The UK Competition Commission yesterday [Thurday] sent out a discouraging message to parties hoping to see a swift resolution to the auction of the country’s fourth-largest supermarket, Safeway.

The Commission’s investigation into the impact of Safeway’s acquisition by various interested parties is to be broadened out to look at petrol sales and Internet home shopping.

A report it produced on competition in the supermarket sector three years ago looked primarily at the larger stores operated by each chain (those over 1,400 square foot) and focused on the groceries market. However, the four supermarkets interested in acquiring Safeway – Wm Morrison Supermarkets, Sainsbury’s, Asda/Wal-Mart and Tesco – have been sent a letter by the Commission stating that it is considering looking at convenience stores and the impact on nonfood sales in relation to any takeover of Safeway.

It will also look at the possible effect on consumer prices of groceries and petrol under the different ownership scenarios.

The broader scope of its investigation makes it doubtful that the Commission will achieve its target deadline of 12 August for filing its recommendations with the government.

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