Wottakar’s: The Competition Commission says yes

By Carmen Comment

After a four-month investigation, the Office of Fair Trading (which, for the uninitiated, is the UK’s antitrust-type office) has issued its preliminary findings about the proposed merger between HMV and Ottakar’s, which would unite two big-chain bookshops together in hardly-universal harmony.

The full text of the ruling can be found here, but the bottom line is that the Competition Commission says “the proposed acquisition of Ottakar’s by HMV through Waterstone’s may not be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition in the market for the retail sale of new books (best-sellers or deep-range titles) at a national, regional or local level in the UK.” The Independent further reports that “competitive threat from supermarkets and online retailers such as Amazon would ensure that book prices would remain low.”

Diana Guy, chairman of the inquiry group, had further comment: “In the few locations where Waterstone’s and Ottakar’s stores are close together, we found the range of books and quality of service were similar to their stores located in other areas.So the effect of competition between Waterstone’s and Ottakar’s at the local level seems limited.

“Although the merger may reduce the number of central buying decision-makers, we do not believe this will have a significant impact on the range and variety of titles available to readers,” she further added.

The publication of the Commission’s final report is expected on May 22.