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After more than a year of negotiation, William Morrison Supermarkets in the UK has finally closed on its acquisition of Safeway Plc there.

The deal, with more than $5 billion (US), combines the assets of the UK's fourth and fifth ranked supermarket chains, putting the combined, 550-store company in a better position to compete with Tesco, Wal-Mart's Asda Group, and Sainsbury - all of which attempted to acquire Safeway, but were rebuffed by competition authorities.

Morrison reportedly plans to rebrand many of the Safeway stores as Morrison units, and also to convert some 138 smaller Safeway units to a "Compact" format that would compete more effectively with small stores such as Tesco Express.

The closure comes none to soon for the combined company, since Safeway Plc same-store sales were off three percent last year, owing largely to uncertainty about the company's future.

Morrison announced yesterday that it was cutting prices on some 300 products in Safeway stores to mark the acquisition.
KC's View:
And the battle is joined…