Big four rivals Asda and Morrisons are thought to have joined a number of private equity bidders for frozen food retailer Iceland.

The long-awaited auction sparked into life on Wednesday, which was deadline day for the first round of bids. The Financial Times has reported that initial offers valued the company at between £1.3bn and £1.5bn.

Chief executive Malcolm Walker, who founded Iceland and continues to hold a 23% stake in the business, has not submitted a bid at this stage. He has the right to match any bid for the company and is not required to show his hand at this stage of proceedings.

If successful, Asda and Morrisons both would need to sell off approximately 20% of the chain’s stores to meet requirements of competition regulators. Both are believed to be interested in batches of stores rather than the entire chain.

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First Iceland bids to come in ‘by mid-October’ (1 October 2011)
‘Wrong on every count’: Walker denies any Iceland finance deal (3 September 2011)
Morrisons drops biggest hint yet of bid for Iceland (12 August 2011)
Iceland bidders face ‘nuisance and cost’ of restrictive leases (13 June 2011)