Malcolm Walker has told The Grocer that Landsbanki is in no position to call the shots in the Iceland auction, after reports it had threatened to call off the sale if it wasn’t satisfied with second-round bids.

“How long can a bankrupt bank hold an asset for without selling it to pay its creditors?” asked Walker. “It is just postponing the problem. Landsbanki has to deal with it at some point soon.”

Sources close to the process insisted this week that everything was proceeding as expected and that Landsbanki and Glitnir - who want £1.5bn for their combined 77% of shares - were “completely relaxed” about the speed the auction was progressing.

However, a City source told The Grocer that any completion of a sale could take months.

Second-round bids are expected by mid to late January. But Walker’s pre-emption rights allow him 42 days to match any offer accepted by Landsbanki. And if Asda or Morrisons successfully bid, the takeover panel could get involved - further delaying the process.

But although Walker wants the sale resolved, he is prepared to wait if necessary. “Our position is not a bad place to be,” he said. “If Landsbanki decide not to sell that is their prerogative and we’ll carry on. But if there is an offer and the price is right we will match it. Otherwise we will wait.”