OFT refers Booker’s planned acquisition of Makro to competition watchdog

UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said it had sent the finalised acquisition by British food wholesaler Booker Group Plc (LON:BOK) of Makro Cash & Carry UK Holding Ltd to the Competition Commission (CC) for additional probe.

The move follows an investigation by the OFT, which has found that the combination could threaten competition between cash and carry outlets in the UK as it brings together two close competitors and reduces the number of national operators from four to three. Apart from Booker and Makro, the other rivals in the sector are Bestway Group and Costco Wholesale UK Ltd.

The probe, which took into account the results of a survey of some 4,000 customers across 22 local areas, as well as other evidence, has also revealed that the parties overlap in 13 local areas, the regulator said.

Booker signed a deal to buy Makro UK, the local wholesale operation of German retailer Metro AG (ETR:MEO), at the end of May for GBP15.8m (USD25.3m/EUR19.8m) in cash and new shares equal to a 9.99% stake, valued at GBP123.9m. The transaction was completed in July.

Amelia Fletcher, OFT chief economist involved in the investigation, commented that the sale of some outlets by Booker and Makro UK in connection with the deal was not enough to eliminate competition concerns. According to Fletcher, the reduced rivalry could prompt a surge in prices or weakened service to both retailers and caterers, as well as to consumers.

Canada’s CBM discusses Indonesian JV with Exxon Mobil

Canadian gas company CBM Asia Development Corp (CVE:TCF) is holding talks with US oil major Exxon Mobil Corporation (NYSE:XOM) over the formation of a joint venture partnership for the development of coalbed methane (CBM) projects in Indonesia.

The announcement from CBM Asia made no mention of financial terms. The final conditions of the planned farm-in deal are subject to the parties negotiating and signing formal agreements and obtaining government approvals, CBM Asia said.

The talks revolve around CBM production sharing contracts (PSCs) in the Barito and Kutai Basins. The companies are to split ownership in the PSCs equally.

The portion of the deal concerning the Barito Basin in South Kalimantan envisions CBM Asia buying between 35% to 37.5% in three existing PSCs. Additionally, the Canadian group will hold rights to purchase a 35% interest in one additional PSC that ExxonMobil may invest in. The prospective partners intend to launch some pilot well test programmes, with CBM Asia covering certain operating costs.

With regard to the Kutai Basin, the plan is for CBM Asia to obtain the right to farm into 50% of the future participating interest Exxon Mobil may purchase in certain CBM PSCs. Once Exxon Mobil acquires an interest in one or more PSCs in the Kutai Basin and the necessary conditions have been met, government clearance included, the US company will transfer half of its interest to CBM Asia.

Accenture gets Homeland security biosurveillance contract

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded Accenture Federal Services (NYSE: ACN) a $3 million, one-year contract to help the Office of Health Affairs enhance its biosurveillance capabilities using social media analytics. The project also will help improve data sharing and collaboration between OHA and its partners.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security awarded Accenture Federal Services (NYSE: ACN) a $3 million, one-year contract to help the Office of Health Affairs enhance its biosurveillance capabilities using social media analytics. The project also will help improve data sharing and collaboration between OHA and its partners.

Accenture will work with OHA to develop a social media analytics pilot that will manage, link and analyze data from social media networks in real time to better inform and protect the public in the event of a national health emergency such as an infectious disease outbreak or a biological attack.

Biosurveillance is the monitoring of public health trends and unusual occurrences, relying on pre-existing, real-time health data data that is publicly available and easily obtained. Because of the vast amount of data and information available and readily shared through social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs) and the rapid pace information is shared, collecting and understanding information from these channels is critical.

Accenture will create a pilot program that will take data from social networking and social media sites to help OHA better predict, mitigate, protect citizens or respond to potential crises in real time.

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with 257,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Its home page is www.accenture.com.