Convenience chain Nisa is in talks with the Co-op after a period of exclusivity regarding a potential takeover offer from Sainsbury's came to an end.
Sainsbury's has yet to make a formal offer, which would need to be approved by Nisa's shopkeeper members. However City A.M. understands that Sainsbury's is waiting for the result of the competition watchdog's report into Tesco's takeover of Booker before taking further action.
It is understood that the Sainsbury's deal is not off the table. However, it has paused discussions while it evaluates how the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) deals with Tesco's attempted takeover of Booker.
The CMA revealed last month that the Tesco Booker merger would be the subject of an in-depth probe, leading to concerns that a Sainsbury's-Nisa tie-up could be met with similar regulatory hurdles.
Supermarkets are battling for control of convenience stores and suppliers, with Morrisons recently unveiling a new tie-up with McColls.
Earlier this year it emerged that Sainsbury's was considering a takeover bid for Nisa, as supermarkets battle it out for dominance in the convenience sector. The Co-op was also in the running but Nisa's board chose Sainsbury's as the preferred bidder over Co-op, believing the supermarket would offer the best deal for members and the most cash upfront.
It has caused some unrest among some of Nisa's shopkeeper members, who believed it could result in the demutualisation of the group and argued that Co-op would be a better fit. Any deal would need to gain at least 50 per cent approval from members.
Nisa, Co-op and Sainsbury's declined to comment.