Reports had suggested Lovering, who made two failed bids for Somerfield last year, was plotting a £3.5bn bid for Safeway in conjunction with Cinven to trump Morrisons’ £3bn bid.
But in a statement, Lovering denied the reports and said he had no intention of being involved in any current or future approach for Safeway. A source close to Cinven said the private equity group would not be making a bid and described the speculation as a “red herring”.
But the clock is ticking for anyone planning to make an 11th-hour offer for Safeway. A spokesman for the Takeover Panel said any realistic bid must be made before shareholders of both Morrisons and Safeway meet to vote on the takeover at separate extaordinary general meetings on February 11. “Legally the door is still open until Safeway’s shares cease trading on March 5,” the spokesman said.