The planned merger between Lakeland Dairies and Irish peer LacPatrick Dairies is no longer under a UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) enforcement order.
But the CMA said it has still not taken a decision on whether the merger can go ahead as planned.
The CMA, able to investigate the deal because the companies have a significant presence in Northern Ireland and the acquisition would be made by Lakeland Dairies (NI), imposed a so-called “initial enforcement order” into the planned merger in November.
It said it had “reasonable grounds for suspecting that it is, or maybe the case, that arrangements are in progress or in contemplation, which, if carried into effect, will result in Lakeland Dairies and LacPatrick Dairies ceasing to be distinct.”
But in its latest pronouncement, the CMA said “based on the evidence it has received in its assessment of the transaction to date, it is appropriate to revoke the initial enforcement order”.
However, it added: “The CMA is continuing to conduct its assessment of the Transaction and has not yet taken a decision, pursuant to section 22 of the [Enterprise] Act, as to whether it is or may be the case that a relevant merger situation has been created and whether the creation of that situation has resulted or may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition in any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or service.”
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The proposed deal was first announced last July. The planned amalgamation of the two companies went to a shareholder vote in October when 95.99% of the shareholders in LacPatrick Dairies voted in favour of the transaction and an even larger percentage of Lakeland Dairies’ owners – 97.24% – also supported the move.