The chain’s owners, HSBC Private Equity and Electra Partners Europe, have appointed Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, to handle the sale. Other parties believed to have been approached about a possible deal include Tesco and Sainsbury's. The appointment of advisers to sell the business, which owns the Martin and Forbuoys chains, follows Tesco and Co-op’s moves into the c-store sector through the respective purchases of T&S Stores and Alldays.
The paper also reported that First Quench, which owns Thresher, Victoria Wine and Wine Rack, is in talks to buy a number of sites from Cellar Five, the rival drinks retailer which went into receivership before Christmas.
A fifth player, retail entrepreneur Philip Green, who owns Arcadia and BHS, is said to be interested in making a cash offer for supermarket Safeway. A move which could see Safeway boost its non-food trade, according to press reports.
Safeway has already been targeted by rivals Morrisons, Sainsbury and Wal-Mart/Asda, plus Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the US private equity group.
Meanwhile, Wal-Mart is planning a £4-a-share bid for Safeway, “to blow rivals out of the water”, according to the Observer. This would value the supermarket at some £4bn and cost Wal-Mart £5bn including Safeway’s debts.
The paper also said that Sir Richard Branson could make a u-turn and make another bid to run the National Lottery. Branson, who vowed never to bid for the licence again, said he would now do so on two conditions: “First there must be a level playing field, and second, bid costs should be returned if I lose again.” Branson’s last attempt cost £10m.
The Sunday Express said that Asda is to appoint investment bank Lazards to work on parent company Wal-Mart's bid for Safeway. Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, the German investment bank has so far acted as Asda’s sole adviser.
The Mail on Sunday reported that supermarkets could get a subsidy of some £74,000 for each outlet they open if they take advantage of the government deregulation of the pharmacy sector. The department of health currently shares out £980m between existing pharmacies.
Meanwhile, Boots is ready to carve up major parts of it business following a review by management consultant McKinsey, according to the MoS. This could include its Wellbeing operations and Boots Healthcare International manufacturing operation. Boots is also said to be keen to headhunt Safeway’s Carlos Criado-Perez as its new chief executive.