Woolworths’ Petstock takeover cleared to proceed

Woolworths will not face opposition from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) to acquire a 55 per cent stake in Petstock – the country’s second-largest specialty pet retailer.

The ACCC said that it accepted Petstock’s court-enforceable undertakings to divest several assets, which Woolworths supports, to address competition concerns.

The assets to be divested include 41 specialty pet retail stores, 25 co-located veterinary hospitals, four brands and two online retail stores across the Best Friends Pets, Our Vet, My Pet Warehouse, Pet City, and Animal Tuckerbox brands, as well as the Pet and Aquarium Warehouse in Eltham, Victoria.

“After extensive consultation with market participants and a comprehensive review of the parties’ internal documents, data and research, we consider Woolworths’ proposed acquisition of a 55 per cent interest in Petstock is unlikely to substantially lessen competition,” said ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb.

“Market feedback indicated that specialty pet retail and grocery are distinct channels in the pet industry, and specialty pet retail stores have a very different product and service offering to supermarkets and discount department stores.”

Earlier, the ACCC found significant concerns with Petstock’s acquisition of Best Friends Pets, Pet City, Animal Tuckerbox, and Pet and Aquarium Warehouse in Eltham, Victoria between 2017 and 2022 without notifying the consumer watchdog.

The ACCC, however, clarified that there is no legislation requiring parties to inform the consumer watchdog of their proposed mergers and acquisitions or to wait for clearance before they can proceed.

“The ACCC needs better laws to enable it to become aware of and properly scrutinise mergers before they occur, and to prevent those likely to substantially lessen competition,” said Cass-Gottlieb.

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