Irish convenience giant Musgrave Group has snapped up Northern Ireland rival J&J Haslett in a deal that will more than double its size in the province, as The Grocer predicted.

The acquisition is due to be completed later in the year subject to regulatory approval, and is expected to go through in September.

The merger will create a new major competitor to the current convenience market leader in Northern Ireland, Spar wholesaler Henderson Group, which supplies 400 independent Spar and Vivo c-stores and operates 54 company-owned stores.

Musgrave currently supplies 140 SuperValu supermarkets and Centra convenience stores in the province, all of them franchises.

Haslett, which operates the Mace and XL Stop and Shop symbols in Northern Ireland, supplies 165 outlets. It also runs seven Holmes Cash & Carry depots.

Additionally, Musgrave supplies SuperValu and Centra stores in the Republic of Ireland and owns MBL in the UK.

"The expertise of Musgrave in developing retail brands, in growing retailer relationships and in using our scale and buying power to maximum benefit for our customers, will secure the future growth of Haslett," said Musgrave Group CEO Chris Martin.

Following the merger, Haslett MD Michael Hamilton will leave the business, to be replaced by Martin Kelleher, currently SuperValu sales director in the Republic.

Delivered business director Tom Uprichard and trading director Michael Patterson will remain in their current roles and join the new Haslett board.

Paddy Doody, sales and marketing director at rival Henderson, said his company considered the merger more of an opportunity to recruit more retailers than a threat to its market share.

"I'm sure there will be a number of Mace and Centra retailers who will see this as an opportunity to reassess their own business arrangements," he said.

Musgrave's interest in Haslett was first revealed by The Grocer, when we reported how the companies had entered exclusive negotiations ('Musgrave talks takeover with Haslett', 12 May).