The private equity consortium that owns Somerfield would rather stick with the retailer than sell it for a knockdown price, The Grocer has learnt.

The consortium, which includes Barclays Capital, Apax and property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz, is considering first-round bids for the chain, which was put up for sale in January for a price believed to be between £2bn and £2.5bn.

Waitrose and the Co-operative Group are believed to have put in a joint bid for the portfolio of 908 stores, rivalling an earlier bid by Asda.

A number of other parties are believed to have expressed an interest in buying the business. "If the shareholders can get value for it, so be it. If they can't then their plan is to continue trading and delivering another successful year of further business improvement," said a source close to Somerfield.

The consortium paid £1.8bn for Somerfield in October 2005.

The chain is expected to record EBITDA of between £230m and £240m for the year to this April - up on the £217.7m, before exceptional items, reported for the year ending April 2007.

The results show that after exceptional items have been taken into account, including £23m of bad debt accrued after the 2006 sale of Kwik Save, which went into administration last year, Somerfield made a loss of £107.7m in the year ending April 2007.

Debt was cut from £1.3bn to £946.8m as loss-making stores were sold off.

Debt for this trading year is expected to have been further cut.

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