Co-op in exclusive talks to buy Nisa

Co-op storefront

The Co-op has emerged as the new frontrunner in the race to acquire Nisa, pushing Sainsbury’s to the sidelines.

In a statement to members released this morning (August 30), Nisa Chairman Peter Hartley said the Co-op had been granted “a period of exclusive due diligence from today”. This appraisal of the Nisa books prior to a potential offer will be paid for the Co-op.

A number of talks at boardroom level have taken place in recent weeks, during which the Co-op reaffirmed its interest in making an offer.

Sainsbury’s had been Nisa’s preferred bidder, but negotiations stalled as the supermarket chain waited to see the outcome of the competition watchdog’s investigation into the Tesco/Booker deal. Nisa’s loss of the McColl’s supply contract to Morrisons is also thought to have played a part.

Hartley was keen to point out that, despite this latest development, key elements of the deal have yet to be ironed out. He said discussions so far had been “pragmatic and constructive”, and that the Board would focus on resolving remaining issues in “a manner which is satisfactory to members”.

If an offer is forthcoming, following the due diligence period, it would require the approval of 50% of Nisa members to go ahead.

The Nisa board will, Harley stressed, continue to look at any other serious offers that emerge. The Sainbury’s deal is, although cooling rapidly, understood not to be not dead yet.

News of the Co-op’s intent will no doubt cheer Nisa retailers, many of whom were unhappy at the prospect of getting swallowed up by Sainbury’s and dismayed at the loss of buying power when McColl’s jumped ship.