While a Philip Green takeover of Safeway would ensure five strong players remained in the UK grocery retail market, many suppliers this week expressed fear of the unknown.
"Philip Green is not the preferred option of most manufacturers," said one major supplier while another international manufacturer added: "We don't see him as bringing more structure or value to the industry. He is the great unknown and the last thing the industry needs is more uncertainty."
Manufacturers expressed concern that Green was not interested in developing the Safeway business in the long term. Those contacted by The Grocer said they were surprised the Morrisons bid was referred to the Competition Commission and that a Morrisons win was their preferred option. This has been the view since the Safeway auction began and mirrors the manufacturer Reader Panel response in last week's issue of The Grocer (March 15, p12).
But one supplier conceded: "We were surprised at the inclusion of Morrisons, but it creates a level playing field. For the proactive companies, any change can be positive."
According to one analyst a protracted inquiry would leave suppliers "dancing with the devil", as lack of investment in the Safeway business would affect trading figures.

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