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‘Synergies and cost savings’: Links, Slaughters and Gibson Dunn advise as Sainsbury’s takes over Asda to create supermarket giant

Linklaters, Slaughter and May and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher have won key roles as Sainsbury’s agreed to merge with Asda in a landmark £3bn deal which will create Britain’s biggest supermarket chain.

The deal announced today (30 April) will establish one of the largest employers in the country, worth £51bn in revenue, operating around 2,800 stores and controlling 31% of the market, a larger share than current leader Tesco.

It sent shockwaves throughout the industry, with Sainsbury’s shares jumping around 20%, while the company was at pains to stress that the deal will lead to a significant reduction in consumer prices without any job cuts or store closures.

‘The driver behind all this is to generate synergies and cost savings, so that the parties can compete better with Aldi and Lidl and give consumers what they want – quality and convenience at a lower price,’ a partner close to the deal told Legal Business, adding that job cuts or store closures ‘would not fit within the rationale of the deal’. Both Sainsbury’s and Asda will keep their brands.

Linklaters’ corporate partners Iain Fenn and Michael Honan are advising Sainsbury’s, which will acquire Asda from US giant Walmart for £2.97bn. UK head of competition Nicole Kar and antitrust partner Simon Pritchard have also acted on the deal, which values Asda at £7.3bn.

The Magic Circle firm sits on Sainsbury’s legal panel, which was last reviewed in August 2017 and includes ten other firms.

Meanwhile, corporate partners Sally Wokes, Victoria MacDuff and Nigel Boardman led the large Slaughters’ team advising Walmart and Asda, alongside finance partner Guy O’Keefe. Tax expert Steve Edge also acted on the deal, with Jonathan Fenn and Charles Cameron advising on employment aspects, Cathy Connolly on IP and tech, Jane Edwarde on real estate and Ben Kingsley on financial regulation.

Gibson Dunn advised Walmart and Asda on the competition aspects of the deal, led by partners Ali Nikpay and Deirdre Taylor. Review of the deal by the Competition and Markets Authority is expected to take a while, with the deal unlikely to close before the autumn of 2019.