Malcolm Walker has slammed the speculation surrounding the sale of Iceland from his base camp on Mount Everest, as he prepares to scale the highest mountain in the world to raise £1m for charity.
Speaking exclusively to The Grocer on a crackly solar-powered mobile from his snow-covered tent, Walker dismissed the speculation as "stupid".
"It doesn't help our staff or the business, all this uncertainty," he said. "Everyone is getting ahead of themselves. Landsbanki are looking to sell their shares for the best price they can get and I am interested in the future of the business and who buys Landsbanki's stake.
"But there has been absolutely no decision made. Anyone can speculate about Morrisons or Sainsbury's or venture capitalists or whatever, but it is just speculation."
Walker made it clear that no deals will take place until he has made it home next month.
"When I get back, which will be in three or four weeks, I shall meet with the advisers that have been appointed and we will decide on an orderly process. I do not know what that process will be until I sit down with them, but only then will we decide what they want, what I want and how we go about it," he said.
"Although there has been quite a bit in the press, the actual position is that Landsbanki are in the process of appointing advisors. That could be Deutsche Bank, it could be Goldman Sachs, it could be anybody, but they haven't done it yet. Even once they have appointed advisers, nothing will happen until I get back."
Speculation over who will buy Landsbanki's 67% shareholding in Iceland has raged for weeks since the Icelandic bank announced it had begun to "evaluate its options". The sale is attracting a fierce amount of interest, although the retailers reportedly circling the business are staying tight-lipped.
Walker, who along with the current management of Iceland currently owns 26% of the business, put a £1bn offer on the table last year. He also has the right to match any deal that is agreed. Landsbanki are said to be hoping for a valuation of up to £2bn for the portfolio of 750 stores.
The frozen foods specialist is currently performing well according to the latest Kantar Worldpanel data for the 12 weeks to 17 April. "Iceland outperformed the market, posting sales increases of 5.9%," said communications director Ed Garner. "This growth is driven by customers seeking out value-for-money products, something they know they can get from its stores."
Walker is climbing Everest with a team from Iceland hoping to raise at least £1m for research into Alzheimer's.
Morrisons next to be linked with Iceland deal (26 April 2011)
Editor's Comment: Will Malcolm Walker be frozen out in Iceland’s sale? (16 April 2011)