There is "some flexibility" over the number of stores Morrisons would have to divest in the event it tables a renewed bid for Safeway, the OFT has confirmed.

A spokeswoman said the Competition Commission report made it clear that if any “genuinely new or additional representations” were made to the OFT, the figure of 53 stores Morrisons had been told to divest could be altered.

She added: “This is not an opportunity to re-open the [original] analysis, but there is a possibility new issues could be considered which would have an impact on the number of stores that should be divested.”

Morrisons declined to comment, but one source close to the company said the Commission’s approach had been “theoretical and academic, and after further analysis of the situation on the ground, there was room for argument”.

The news came as Arcadia boss Philip Green said he had no immediate plans to bid for Safeway after meetings with the OFT, although he refused to rule out a return to the table should another party make an offer.

Analysts said the move came as no surprise given the restrictions placed on potential bidders about selling off stores in future.

n Safeway unveiled a 0.7% rise in second quarter like-for-like sales - ahead of analysts’ expectations, but admitted volumes and supplier support had dipped, although value sales had increased.

It also revealed that it had planning consent to increase its sales area by 11%.