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Super Saturday Showdown For Morrisons And Its £6B-Plus Property Portfolio

Morrisons is being pursued by private equity.

One of Britain’s largest supermarket chains will be auctioned off Saturday, with the company’s £6B property portfolio a central feature of a long-running takeover battle. 

The UK takeover panel said that it would run an auction for Morrisons this weekend, in a process that could see the company sold for more than £10B, including £3.2B of debt, City A.M. reported.

Two rival U.S. private equity firms, Clayton, Dubliner & Rice and Fortress, have submitted bids for the company, with CD&R’s £9.9B bid currently the highest.

Because neither bidder has said that their offer is final, the takeover panel will run a one-day auction, with five rounds of bidding, at the end of which the board of Morrisons will need to recommend a bid to shareholders. The auction won’t go ahead if either company pulls out of the process before Saturday.

During the takeover battle, Morrisons’ property portfolio has been in the spotlight. The supermarket has about 500 stores and a number of distribution facilities, and it owns a high proportion of them — around 85%, compared to an average of around 60% for rival UK supermarkets. 

The portfolio is valued on Morrisons’ books at about £6B, but analysts have estimated that it could be worth as much as £9B if sold on the open market. Morrisons shareholders, including L&G, have called for an updated valuation of the portfolio to ensure the company is not being sold on the cheap. 

Both CD&R and Fortress have said they won’t sell a big chunk of Morrisons’ property outright, but they could sell stakes in the portfolio to specialist real estate investors. Fortress has teamed up with U.S. firm Koch Real Estate in its bid for Morrisons.