Research by The Grocer suggests Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury and Philip Green could each face bills of up to £40m, mainly from the professional advisors working on their bids, whether or not they are successful.
Morrisons, which kicked off the bidding frenzy, is likely to escape lightly because there is a clause in the offer it agreed with Safeway which will entitle it to £30m compensation if the takeover by Morrisons does not go ahead.
Even Safeway is likely to be incurring multi-million pound bills to pay for the bankers working on the deal.
US financier Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which this week announced it was withdrawing from the battle, will also have racked up a large bill as it disclosed that it had already carried out due diligence on its bid. KKR's decision to pull out was described as inevitable by one analyst, because it would never be able to match bids from the major multiples who could extract synergy savings from a deal with Safeway.
"I have always viewed KKR's bid as a non-starter, it never had a chance," he said.
However KKR has not closed the door on Safeway. In a careful statement, it said it had decided "for the time being" not to progress its potential offer but would continue to monitor the situation and keep its position under review. The analyst believed KKR would probably come back with a low offer if all the retailers' bids were referred to the Competition Commission.
As the number of potential bidders fell to five, Morrisons, which is still the only company to have tabled a bid, cleared another hurdle. At an extraordinary general meeting 97.2% of its shareholders voted in favour of the deal.
However, it also disclosed that just 0.67% of Safeway shareholders had accepted its offer by the closing date of February 21, and extended the deadline until March 14.
>>p33 They're in the money