Union blasts Business Secretary over £6.8bn Asda acquisition

The GMB trade union has branded Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch “tin eared” after she declined to launch a probe into the £6.8bn takeover of the Asda supermarket chain by the Blackburn-based Issa brothers, alongside TDR Capital.

The brothers, who own the Euro Garages Group, and private equity firm TDR, received final approval for the acquisition from the Competiton & Markets Authority (CMA) in June, 2021.

But the union says the takeover will threaten food supply, increase fuel prices and only benefit the super wealthy elite.

It railed at the Trade Secretary after her department refused to step in over the merger between Leeds-based Asda and petrol forecourt and foods business EG Group.

The union wrote to Kemi Badenoch, Secretary of State for Business and Trade, warning the merger could threaten food supplies and have a “chilling effect” on fuel prices at a time when supermarkets are already being accused of petrol profiteering. The CMA announced this week it is to investigate whether “any failure in competition” is leaving consumers paying higher grocery and fuel prices than they should be.

The GMB called on the Trade Secretary to ensure the CMA intervened in the Asda deal, but responding to a written question from MP Charlotte Nichols asking if the Secretary of State “has had discussions with the CMA”, the department replied: “The CMA is responsible for investigating the impact of mergers and acquisitions on competition. The SoS for Business is, therefore, not involved with specific cases.”

Union chiefs claim Asda may have been preparing for the merger since 2021 when it appointed Alison Carnworth, a former member of the Takeover Panel, to the board.

Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said: “The billionaire Issa brothers and the elite multi-millionaire private equity fund managers at TDR capital want to use Asda as a cash cow to pay off their debts.

“This merger is wrong on so many levels – it is wrong for consumers and will increase food prices, it is wrong for drivers with a chilling effect on fuel prices, it is wrong for Asda’s workers and it is wrong for Asda’s business.

“The only people this deal benefits are the super wealthy elite pulling the strings at the top of Asda and EG Group. The appointment of Alison Camworth suggests they’ve been planning this for some time.”

She added: “If this tin-eared Secretary of State allows fund managers and wealthy individuals to play fast and loose with consumers’ food and fuel supply it will not be forgotten.

“As the SoS she has unique powers to order a CMA investigation.

“By refusing to use these powers she is turning her back on hard working communities who rely on healthy competition in the food and fuel market – as well as turning her back on thousands of Asda workers who need job security.”