SUPERMARKET giants Asda and Sainsbury's have rubbished suggestions any of their Carlisle stores could be sold off if their merger plans are to come to fruition.

Earlier this year the retailers announced shock plans to merge in a £12bn deal which would create the country's biggest supermarket chain.

If the merger, which would be subject to scrutiny from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), goes ahead it would see the newly-formed chain occupy four stores in Carlisle.

Sainsbury's currently has two outlets- one in Caldewgate and a Local store in Scotland Road - while Asda also has two with them occupying large units in Kingstown and London Road.

According to analysis carried out by the The Times and industry bodies, there are at least 300 areas where the merger could cause concern for regulators when assessing local market share.

The Times' analysis suggests Carlisle is one of those areas where the supermarkets might be required to "dispose" of stores.

The report continues by claiming half of those - including Carlisle - could be deemed "problem locations" as natural buyers such as Tesco and Morrisons might not be able or want to buy them.

The CMA has yet to open a formal investigation but it is expected to do so later this year. At the centre of their probe would be determining whether the combined store portfolio would have a negative impact on shopper choice.

However, the retailers have rubbished suggestions that their plans could pose risk to any of Carlisle's stores.

An Asda spokesman told the News & Star : “Asda and Sainsbury’s will continue to operate as two separate retailers, and this proposed merger offers a great deal for customers.

"There are no planned store closures as a result of the proposed combination.”

Carlisle City Council leader Colin Glover hopes all of the existing stores will remain open because they all meet local needs.

He said: “The Asda and Sainsbury’s stores are meeting an important need in the city. Asda have got a major store in the north and mid-sized store on London Road.

"Sainsbury’s delivered an important store in Caldewgate, to serve the west of the city, and a convenience store on Scotland Road. They all meet the needs of those communities and I hope that will continue."

The report also claimed stores in Halifax, Huddersfield, Warrington and Hastings might encounter the same problems as Carlisle.