Sainsbury has submitted for clearance its application of its possible offer for Safeway to the Office of Fair Trading.

Sir Peter Davis said: “This submission puts our proposed bid on to the OFT's targeted 45 working day timetable, along with the other bidders.

“As the other bids are raising similar issues, we would like to be considered alongside their applications, in the same way and within the same timetable."

Five bidders have expressed their interest in Safeway so far including rival chains Morrisons, Sainsbury, Wal-Mart Stores/Asda, as well Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the US private equity group. The latest being Philip Green, the billionaire retail entrepreneur and owner of Arcadia and BHS.