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ACCC will say on Thursday if Coles can buy nine Supabarn stores

Australia's competition watchdog will announce on Thursday whether Coles can buy Canberra-based Supabarn's nine supermarkets in the ACT and Sydney, including the recently opened one at Casey.

Supabarn announced it was selling most of its stores in June last year for family reasons, sparking the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's inquiry, and concerns it would lessen competition in the $88 billion grocery market.

Founded in 1991 by Eric Koundouris, who arrived in Australia when he was 12, Supabarn began with one store in Civic and grew to a chain of nine in Canberra and Sydney.

For years it aimed to become Australia's third biggest player in the fierce grocery market, and complained it was being thwarted by Coles and Woolworths, which could out-bid competitors for sites. 

Under a contentious ACT Government competition policy, Coles and Woolworths were sidelined from prime sites including Kingston, where the Koundouris family are in partnership with  CIC Australia to develop apartments and a new full-line supermarket, which is not included in the proposed Coles deal.

In the aftermath of that policy Supabarn opened a warehouse at Majura Park in 2010, only to close a year later when Costco arrived on its doorstep, and Woolworths soon afterwards.

Coles has eight supermarkets in Canberra and 262 in NSW, and under this deal would own other supermarkets in Canberra's CBD, Kaleen, Wanniassa, Crace and Casey and four in Sydney including Five Dock.

In a statement of issues in September, the ACCC said lack of access to suitable sites remained a significant barrier to new entry into the grocery market.

In October ACCC chairman Rod Sims aired preliminary views on the proposed Coles acquisition, saying it had concerns about competition, and strong concerns in Sans Souci and Sutherland in NSW, and Casey in the ACT.

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