Asda to sell 47 Netto stores, wins OFT approval

A worker fills shelves at an ASDA supermarket in Oldham, northern England, January 5, 2011. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - Asda, the grocer owned by Wal-Mart WMT.N, has agreed to sell 47 of the stores it plans to buy from Netto UK to rivals including Morrisons and Iceland in order to win regulatory clearance for the deal.

Asda has already lined up buyers for 25 of the stores, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said on Wednesday. The OFT said Asda had to do this before it would clear the Netto deal.

Danish conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk MAERSKb.CO agreed in May to sell the British arm of its Netto discount food stores to Asda for 778 million pounds.

Wm Morrison Supermarkets MRW.L said in a separate statement it had agreed to buy 16 of the 47 stores for 28.1 million pounds, conditional on Asda's acquisition of Netto UK receiving the go-ahead.

Morrisons, Britain’s fourth-ranked grocer, said the stores would add 120,000 square feet of additional selling space, with handover expected from March and conversion to its own format in the following three months.

Six of the stores Morrisons is buying are on the up-front list of 25. Eighteen others are earmarked for sale to Haldanes Stores Ltd and one to Iceland Foods, the OFT website said.

Monthly data from market researcher Kantar Worldpanel on Wednesday showed J Sainsbury SBRY.L overtaking Asda to become Britain's second-biggest grocer for the first time in seven years. Asda's purchase of Netto UK stores should see it return to second place.

The OFT said it was minded to accept Asda’s proposals, although the measures are dependent on public consultation.

Reporting by Paul Sandle and Mark Potter; editing by David Hulmes