A takeover bid for the supermarket chain Morrisons by a private equity-backed consortium has been increased to £6.7bn following speculation of a rival offer.
The group led by Fortress Investment Group has increased its previous financial pitch for the Bradford-based grocer, which had been agreed by management, by £400m.
It said it upped the offer amid “speculation regarding a possible counter-offer by Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R)”, a rival US private equity firm which saw a £5.5bn approach swiftly rejected by Morrisons in June.
The current bidder said: “(Fortress) remains committed to becoming the new owner of Morrisons and to being a responsible long-term steward of this great British company through the next stage of its evolution.”
Morrisons said its board had also re-confirmed its unanimous recommendation of the offer.
The company said in a stock market statement: “Morrisons directors believe that the increased Fortress offer is in the best interests of Morrisons shareholders as a whole, and accordingly unanimously recommend that Morrisons shareholders vote in favour of the resolutions required to implement the increased Fortress offer.”
The UK takeover regulator has given CD&R a deadline of Monday 9 August to either place its own firm bid for the retailer or walk away.
The increased Fortress bid also comes after a number of Morrisons’ investors, including its largest shareholder Silchester, said they would not back the original 254p per share offer agreed by the board, indicating it was too low.
Silchester, which holds a 15.1% stake in the group, had said it was “not inclined” to back that deal and wanted the board to allow more time for offers to emerge that might better the initial Fortress bid.
The latest offer values the company at 272p per share.
Shareholders in Morrisons are due to vote on the Fortress bid on 16 August.
Analysts have speculated that Amazon, which has a partnership deal with Morrisons, could still enter the fray.
The takeover talk has prompted concerns from MPs about the potential for new owners selling off property assets or reducing the rights of workers.
The original Fortress-led deal agreed by the Morrisons board included commitments to the current management team, strategy and its £10 per hour shop floor wage.
Fortress also said it “does not anticipate engaging in any material store sale and leaseback transactions”.