A deal to buy Somerfield will not be finalised until at least mid-July, as the bidding war for the supermarket group narrowed to two players yesterday.

United Co-operatives pulled out of the bidding race for Somerfield yesterday, stating that it had “now decided not to proceed with an offer for Somerfield”.

Co-op’s exit leaves the way open for two interested parties - a consortium including Icelandic investor Baugur, property mogul Robert Tchenguiz, Apax and Barclays Capital, and a group led by property tycoons Ian and Richard Livingstone.

Media reports suggest that a deal will not be struck until at least mid-July as due diligence was taking much longer than planned.

Baugur’s consortium is keen to finalise the deal and has been investing in a lot of preparation, the reports added.

Both parties have made indicative proposals at 205p a share for Somerfield, valuing the group at approximately £1.1bn.