Somerfield confirmed this week it would postpone plans to refinance the business due to turmoil in the credit markets. The supermarket had wanted to refinance in order to pay off its £1.31bn debt and facilitate a shareholder pay-out. But it has put the move on hold in the wake of the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market in the US, which has caused jitters in credit markets worldwide. A Somerfield spokesman played down the significance of the move, insisting it was "business as usual". "There is no strict timetable for the refinancing," he said. "It's not vital. The business is very profitable and it's just an option that's being considered." One private equity source said he believed Somerfield would launch a fresh bid to refinance in the autumn. "They will probably just wait for a window of opportunity [in the credit market] later this year, as most people anticipate," he said. "But I expect the people who put the money in want to see a return and if they can't refinance soon enough they might look at a sell-off". But the Somerfield spokesman denied any plans to sell. The company had recently secured five stores from music chain Fopp as part of its plan to open 50 new shops by next April, he added.

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