Takeaway buys Just Eat for $7.8 billion, must wait to merge operations

FILE PHOTO: Signage for Just Eat is seen on the window of a restaurant in London, Britain, August 5, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville./File Photo

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch online food ordering company on Friday declared its $7.8 billion takeover of British peer Just Eat unconditional, though the two companies still need a competition authority’s approval before merging operations.

Takeaway said in a statement that shares in the combination will begin trading on the London Stock Exchange on Monday, Feb. 3.

But the company said an investigation by Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is still ongoing and the two companies must continue operating under separate management and branding until that is complete.

Takeaway said it expects that to happen on March 5.

The CMA competition investigation centers on whether Takeaway might have re-entered the UK market - which it quit in 2016 - if its takeover of Just Eat had not succeeded. Takeaway says that is not the case.

Just Eat said in a separate statement it is sure the merger will not result in a “significant lessening” of competition in the UK food delivery market, adding that it would fully abide by the CMA’s order and work with it through the investigation.

On Jan. 10, Takeaway claimed victory in its all-stock bid for Just Eat, beating out a rival cash bid from tech investment giant Prosus NVPRX.AS after a lengthy battle.

It said on Friday that 92.2% of shareholders have now tendered shares to its offer. Takeaway intends to launch a squeeze out process to acquire the rest.

Just Eat on Tuesday forecast 2019 core earnings of about 200 million pounds ($262.88 million) and said it agreed to partner with McDonald’s in Britain and Ireland, becoming the fast-food chain’s second delivery provider after Uber Eats.

Reporting by Toby Sterling; Additional reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle