Safeway's reputation is dented by the revelation it has held merger talks with Asda, which claims it would have emerged as the dominant partner.

Safeway's name is again linked with its namesake in the US, and with Morrisons.

Safeway denies reports that chief executive Colin Smith has been visiting Asda stores and a London legal firm with Asda chief executive Allan Leighton. One source reports seeing an itinerary for Asda store visits by Smith and Leighton. The City is convinced a merger is inevitable.

Sainsbury and Asda are linked as joint partners in a bid for Safeway. The rumour is slammed as untrue by Safeway.

Reports that Wal-Mart has been stalking Safeway with a view to an eventual takeover are greeted with scepticism on both sides of the Atlantic. Many believe that its next foray into Europe will be in France.

Rumours Asda is preparing to launch a bid for Safeway continue to circulate, but experts insist it could not do any deal without first finding a suitable partner to help it break up Safeway in order to get round competition rules.
Safeway denies it is in discussions with a third party regarding a possible offer for the company. Wal-Mart is rumoured to be plotting a £2.8bn takeover.

Asda and Sainsbury are reported to have held talks about a possible £3bn joint bid and how to carve up the estate; Asda would take on Safeway's bigger stores and Sainsbury its portfolio of high street outlets ­ especially in Scotland.
Chief executive Carlos Criado-Perez tells the annual IGD convention: "We are doing our best to remain an independent and successful company." Safeway chairman David Webster hints he feels the competition authorities will block any deal for his chain.

Press reports reveal ex-Asda boss Allan Leighton is working on a £3bn bid for Safeway with the Royal Bank of Scotland to buy the multiple and sell its stores off piecemeal to Asda, Sainsbury and Morrisons.

Morrisons surprises the City by making a £2.9bn cash and shares bid for Safeway.

Sainsbury trumps Morrisons when it announces it is considering a £3.5bn cash/shares bid.

14/1/03Wal-Mart announces it is considering an all-cash bid.