John Lovering, who is in charge of the consortium that put in a bid for Somerfield, was considering his next move, said a source close to the entrepreneur.

The industry was waiting to see if he was prepared to increase his bid above the 103p per share spurned last week.

Mark Hughes of Numis Securities believed Lovering was calculating a proposal that would be difficult for Somerfield to decline but at the same time still give a sufficient return.

He predicted a 120p bid would put pressure on the board.