For weeks, the story on both sides of the pond has been about Wal-Mart making a bid for Safeway in a move that would consolidate its already strong stake in the UK trade through Asda.
Indeed, one story, widely circulating in Wall Street circles, was that the US chain would indulge in a partnership bid with Sainsbury as it strove to consolidate its already sizeable chunk of UK retailing share.
Curiously, some of the City scribblers on this side of the pond dismissed the idea on the basis that it would not get the nod of approval from the regulatory authorities. But then, many of them were surprised when Wal-Mart bought Asda three years ago.
In the event, according to my sources in the Big Apple, that united move by Wal-Mart and Sainsbury had gone off the agenda as Wal-Mart considered going it alone.
And even as late as New Year's Eve, informed folk in America's Midwest ­ in between popping the champagne corks ­ were predicting that Wal-Mart would make an early offer for Safeway.
But in truth, a Morrisons-Safeway deal should have been expected. The Yorkshire chain, guided by the father of UK supermarketing, Sir Kenneth Morrison, has been the subject of rumours for years.
It has long since gained the honour of being Britain's most admired multiple, given the skill with which the artful Yorkshireman has carved a unique niche in the UK retailing scene.
Yet its progress into the major conurbations of the United Kingdom, despite a strong foothold in the north and Midlands, has not been as widespread as some of the pundits ­ and customers for that matter ­ would have liked.
So, on the law of averages, a big move by the shrewd, and financially muscled Morrisons outfit was bound to happen one day. And now that, for the moment at least, he has apparently stolen a march on the aggressive Yanks it will lead to more admiration being heaped towards Sir Ken. And why not?
But the official announcement of the Morrisons-Safeway move talks about creating a "dynamic national supermarket group well positioned to compete successfully in the UK marketplace".
Behind that classic example of City PR-speak I suspect that what Morrisons really hopes is that the union is an effective way of preventing the Arkansas giant from gaining a stronger foothold in these islands. The question is, will it?
For the ripple process in the British grocery big league, in the shape of several more deals among the giants ­ all arranged in the cause of self-protection in the face of mega competition ­ will be widespread.
By the time this issue of The Grocer hits the streets we could well have a response, perhaps in the form of a counter bid, from Arkansas.
Perhaps Sir Peter Davis' Sainsbury camp will also come in with a move. Add the fact that Tesco's Sir Terry Leahy is also likely to be considering his options, and you can get set for a potentially action-packed scenario in the weeks ahead. Wal-Mart has ambitions to conquer the world, and the UK in particular, so it will certainly not let take this move lying down. It once had its acquisitive eyes on Tesco. What a headache that would be for the regulatory bods if those ambitions were to be revived!
Whatever happens, to the Morrisons-Safeway deal, the shape of British food retailing is now facing major change.
The major players, as The Grocer's columns have so often shown in recent months, are slugging it out in the most competitive arena ever seen in the UK.
Add the aspirations of several aggressively ambitious world players here, and thus the phrase "survival of the fittest" has real meaning.
2003 could well be the year when the much forecast radical redrawing of the retailing map finally happens. Sir Kenneth Morrison, the shrewdest campaigner in UK supermarketing, has shown the way.