Safeway has withdrawn its recommendation of Morrisons all-share offer for its supermarkets and advised shareholders “to await developments”.

Morrisons agreed to buy Safeway on January 9 which valued its rival at £2.9bn. Morrisons stocks have since dipped to 241p per share with the offer now worth £2.54bn.

Safeway said it would provide further advice to shareholders as “matters progress” with any proposals from the other potential buyers Sainsbury, Asda/Wal-Mart, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Philip Green or Tesco.

Safeway chairman David Webster said: “The board of Safeway continues to believe that a combination with Morrisons represents an opportunity to create a new dynamic force in UK food retailing and remains fully supportive of Morrisons pursuing its offer."

Safeway concluded that it remains confident that the merger with Morrisons “should be capable of avoiding reference to the Competition Commission”.

Chairman of the Bradford-based chain, Sir Ken Morrison, said Safeway had been “put in a difficult position by the extraordinary number of indicative bids that have emerged since we made our offer”.

And he "understood" why Safeway had made its statement. He looked forward "to their renewed formal recommendation once the circumstances are clarified".

Sir Ken reiterated his belief that Safeway and Morrisons together would create a strong fourth national food retailer.

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