Philip Green today said he would only bid for Safeway if the price were right.

"If the opportunity is available at the right price, we will be there," he said. But he added he did not want to spend 20 years getting out of a hole. "I’m not going to buy for the hell of it."

Green said he was sure he could grow the Safeway business by developing a stronger non-food offer.

"The people succeeding are those selling non-food," he said, adding that, while they were doing a good job, he did not believe Asda and Tesco were fully exploiting this side of their operations.

According to Green the key to running a retail chain profitably is to understand the supply chain.

"That is where the money is to be made," he said, adding: "It can’t be any more difficult buying an apple than buying a skirt."

Green is one of five players still interested in acquiring Safeway following the withdrawal of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts last week. Morrison is still the only one with a bid on the table.