The UK competition regulator said this afternoon it is leaning towards launching a probe into Admiral Taverns’ £222m takeover of the Hawthorn pub business.
Admiral sealed a deal to buy the pub estate, which covers 674 venues across the UK, from the retail property investor NewRiver, in July.
The move will strengthen Admiral’s position as one of the UK’s largest pub owners, growing its portfolio to more than 1,600 pubs.
However, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has said it is now considering whether to launch an investigation into the deal.
It said it was looking at whether the takeover “has resulted, or may be expected to result, in a substantial lessening of competition”.
The CMA is inviting parties to comment on the competition impact of the deal, with a deadline of October 12. The regulator will then decide whether or not to launch a phase 1 investigation.
A spokeswoman for Admiral said: “We look forward to hearing the outcome in due course.”
FTSE 250 firm NewRiver has left the pub sector through the sale, in an effort to raise funds to help further its growth within retail.
NewRiver entered the pub industry in 2013 before expanding with its acquisition of the Hawthorn group in 2018 for £107m, into which it incorporated its existing estate.
In April, the group first disclosed its plans to offload Hawthorn as a standalone business.