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Book chain takeover

Waterstone's bid for Ottakar's to get green light

Book buyers look to have been foiled in their attempts to stop Waterstone’s multi-million pound bid to buy one of its main rivals.

Waterstone’s had been hoping to tie up the GBP 96.4 million deal for Ottakar’s last September, giving the combined chain 325 stores across the UK.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) referred the proposed merger to the Competition Commission following a deluge of complaints from consumers.

Competition Commission provisional approval

But the commission has now provisionally given the green light to the proposed deal. It says the takeover is ‘not likely to affect book prices, range of titles offered or quality of service.’

Chairman of the inquiry group Diana Guy said: ‘In the few locations where Waterstone’s and Ottakar’s stores are close together, we found the range of books and quality of service were similar to their stores located in other areas. So the effect of competition between Waterstone’s and Ottakar’s at the local level seems limited.’

The commission says that growing competition from supermarkets and online stores would also help ensure that book prices remain low.

Ottakar’s noted the provisional ruling and said it was awaiting the publication of the final report of the commission, which is due by 22 May.

In its response, HMV, which owns Waterstone’s, said: ‘The company is now considering the full text of the Competition Commission’s provisional conclusions and will continue to work closely with the commission.’

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