The Business reported that Wal-Mart and Sainsbury are to fight for Safeway with independent bids to scupper the Morrisons takeover.

The Sunday Times said Sainsbury boss Sir Peter Davis wants to move quickly on Morrisons all-share deal for Safeway. But any offer could be tempered by fears that it would be blocked by the Competition Commission.

The Sunday Telegraph said that that UBS Warburg, Sainsbury's financial adviser, has been running the slide-rule over Safeway for months. It expected Sainsbury's to announce an intention to offer a 50/50 mixture of cash and shares with a value of more than £3 for each Safeway share. Meanwhile, an executive close to Wal-Mart told the paper that is prepared to offer pure cash for Safeway “sounding out the Office of Fair Trading”.

The Observer reported that a counter bid by either Asda or Sainsbury for Safeway could face a five-month Competition Commission inquiry, with no guarantees that they would be able to acquire the chain at the end of it. A Whitehall source told the paper that a takeover by Asda or Sainsbury would reduce consumer choice by cutting the number of big players from four to three, while the deal with Morrisons keeps the current league table intact.

The Independent on Sunday said the prospect of a bid from Wal-Mart brought negotiations between Morrisons and Safeway to a head. A senior source within the negotiations told paper he was convinced that Wal-Mart was ready to make an all-cash offer this week and had appointed Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein to advise on a deal.

The Mail on Sunday reported that Wal-Mart plans a £3bn offer for Safeway this week. But added that Safeway wrong-footed the US retailer by bringing forward a trading statement to coincide with the announcement of its deal with Morrisons.