The UK's leading grocery retailers have expressed concern over the government's decision to refer all bids for Safeway other than Philip Green's to the Competition Commission.

Make sure of your copy of The Grocer this Saturday for a full round-up of all the news, interviews and comment on the continuing battle for Safeway.

Tesco said the DTI's decision could allow a financial bidder to buy Safeway and then break it up and sell on parts of the business.

CEO Sir Terry Leahy said: “As we expected, the authorities will now look at the implications of major structural change including the possibility of consolidation from four national players into only three.”

He added if the four national players are to be restructured into three, "consumers would be better off if Tesco led that change".

Morrisons said it will review its options. Chairman Sir Ken Morrison said: "The statement is very disappointing as we believe our offer for Safeway would have enhanced competition and created a strong fourth national food retailer."

Morrison was disappointed the OFT "found difficulty in identifying and addressing the local areas of overlap between Morrisons and Safeway".

Asda’s boss Tony DeNunzio said it intends to “pursue vigorously” its bid for Safeway and “will be cooperating fully” with the Competition Commission.

Sainsbury expressed its disappointment at the OFT decision but said it would also "cooperate fully with the Commission and look forward to a satisfactory conclusion".