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Billionaire seeks go-ahead to bid for Safeway.

BHS billionaire Philip Green is to seek clearance to make a cash bid for Safeway, the supermarket group at the centre of a six-way tussle.

Mr Green, who also owns Arcadia, is thought by observers to be preparing a bid valuing Safeway at around pounds 3.2bn, or over 300p-a-share.

In an announcement to the London Stock Exchange, Mr Green's Trackdean company said it had met the Office of Fair Trading and intended shortly to make a formal submission seeking clearance for a possible cash offer.

``In addition, Trackdean has requested certain further information from Safeway in order to continue to evaluate any such offer,'' it added.

However, Mr Green's Trackdean dashed hopes of an imminent announcement regarding a bid, adding that a further statement would be made ``if and when appropriate, which is not expected for several weeks''.

Monaco-based Mr Green is up against five rivals to win Safeway.

Last week, market leader Tesco said it was considering entering the fray, while Sainsbury's, Asda-owner Wal-Mart and US buy out giant Kohlberg Kravis Roberts have also shown their interest.

The takeover fever disrupted Bradford-based Morrisons' agreed pounds 2.9bn deal to buy Safeway announced on January 9.

Shares in Morrisons have since fallen, meaning its all paper bid is now valued at just pounds 2.3bn.

Safeway pulled its recommendation of the Morrisons offer last week and increased the stakes by announcing its property assets were worth more than expected.

Analysts believed Safeway was attempting to push its sale price towards the 400p- pers hare mark, giving it a market value of pounds 4.2m It is thought both KKR and Wal-Mart are poised to publicise how much they are willing to spend but are waiting for each other to lay their cards

on the table first.

Wal-Mart is now bookies' favourite to win the battle, with Philip Green in second place and KKR in third.

Wal-Mart, Morrisons, Sainsbury and Tesco have made their submissions to the OFT, which is inviting comment from third parties on the possible bids.

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Q UP FOR GRABS: Five organisations have set their sights on Safeway's hundreds of stores
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 29, 2003
Words:356
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