Last week, the NMA held the first of a series of regional meetings in Birmingham, designed to gather the feelings of members throughout the UK. Adrian Costain, a member of the NMA committee, said that 193 retailers from within a 60-mile radius were invited and that, at two days notice, the event attracted 90 people representing 62 of Nisa-Today's retail members.
Adrian said: "Based on the limited information we have from Nisa-Today's, a vote by show of hands was taken with the view to reject the proposals. This was given unanimous support." Adrian reckoned the vote was indicative of around 40% of members being against the merger. If this was repeated across the country it would be more than enough to block the merger and would be close to securing a controlling vote in the company.
The NMA plans to hold similar meetings with members in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales by the end of this month.
Meanwhile, Nisa-Today's chairman Dudley Ramsden has written to the NMA requesting a meeting on June 19 to discuss the matter. An NMA committee member told C-Store that it would be very unlikely that anyone representing the NMA would be attending the meeting. He said: "We are here to look after the best interests of the members, not the board."
The parties involved in the deal are continuing to sort out the due diligence and are therefore unlikely to be able to deliver the full details of the proposed merger until the beginning of July. Some members have suggested to C-Store that the board of Nisa-Today's is waiting to gauge the strength of the opposition before deciding whether to push it through.
Adrian Costain said the members' main concerns were the level of debt the merger would create - believed to be at least £125m.
He also rejected the idea of an alternative buyer for Nisa-Today's amid speculation that Bestway had made an approach. He argued: "I believe the acquisition route has failed in cases such as Nurdin & Peacock and Booker. The benefits of combined buying power can be achieved through joint ventures and collaborative agreements."