UK supermarket Morrisons plans auction to end bidding war


LONDON (AP) — The British supermarket chain Morrisons plans to end a bidding war for the company by holding an auction between two U.S.-based investment groups that have made competing offers.

The private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice offered about 7 billion pounds ($9.6 billion) for Morrisons, topping the 6.7 billion-pound offer from a group led by Fortress Investment. But neither bidder declared its offer final by the deadline set by regulators.

As a result, Morrisons said Wednesday that it is in discussions with the bidders and the U.K. Takeover Panel to put together an auction that will provide “an orderly framework for the resolution of this competitive situation.”

The competition for Morrisons began in June when Clayton, Dubilier & Rice made an unsolicited bid for the company. Morrisons, the U.K.’s fourth-largest supermarket chain, operates 497 stores and 339 gas stations around the country.

British assets have attracted the interest of foreign buyers after uncertainty over the U.K.’s departure from the European Union and the fallout from COVID-19 restrictions weighed on stock prices. Britain’s benchmark FTSE 100 Index has fallen 6.5% since the beginning of last year, compared with a 40% gain in the S&P 500.

Morrisons said it expects the auction to be completed before mid-October, when shareholders are scheduled to meet to consider the offers.

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