Private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts is said to be in discussions with Merrill Lynch to strike a deal that would see the US investment bank help to fund a bid for Safeway, in return for an equity stake in the supermarket.
However, although it is considering a bid with other private equity firms, KKR is still understood to prefer a tie-up with Wal-Mart.

The World Health Organisation has unveiled the final draft of an international tobacco control pact due to be completed next month.
However, the WHO immediately came under fire from anti-tobacco activists who denounced the draft claiming WHO had bowed to pressure from the US, Germany and Japan to weaken key provisions including advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

Procter and Gamble is closing its Tampax tampon factory in Leigh Park, Havant, Hampshire - resulting in 300 job losses - to move production to eastern Europe.
The company said the move was necessary to keep its business competitive.

The banana may become extinct in ten years time because it is genetically decrepit.
Scientists said that because edible bananas are sterile mutants, new varieties cannot easily be produced by natural methods, leaving the fruit vulnerable to attack from pests and disease.