Morrisons bid battle to go to auction
It looks like the battle to take over Morrisons will go to auction with the supermarket giant saying on Wednesday that it’s in talks with both of the US private equity suitors that have tabled bids, along with the UK’s Takeover Panel.
Morrisons, which is a player in the UK fashion sector via its Nutmeg brand, is talking to the three parties to begin an auction procedure to settle who eventually wins control of the fourth biggest supermarket chain in Britain.
It had originally backed a £6.5 billion offer from the Softbank-led Fortress consortium but then recommended shareholders back the later £7 billion Clayton, Dubillier & Rice offer.
However, neither party has said their offer is final and it’s believed by the firm that an auction could see higher bids coming in.
Morrisons said it’s beginning “discussions around an orderly framework for the resolution of this competitive situation” through an auction. That should happen before October 18 and will see it deciding which offer to finally recommend to shareholders once the auction process has happened.
But it’s not just about who offers the most money. The company said its board “continues to place very significant emphasis on the wider responsibilities of ownership of Morrisons”. That includes taking into account all stakeholders such as staff, suppliers and customers and especially its pension trustees.
There has been some concern expressed about the takeover prospects both by politicians and trade unions, especially given that another of the four biggest UK supermarkets – Asda – has been taken over by private equity this year as well. One of the worries is that any new owner could sell off a chunk of the property that Morrisons owns, adding higher costs for the business further down the line.
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