Prospect of Morrisons bidding war recedes

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A woman with a supermarket trolley outside MorrisonsImage source, PA Media

The prospect of a bidding war for UK supermarket Morrisons has receded with the withdrawal of one potential suitor.

US investment firm Apollo, which was considering making an offer, has now changed its mind.

Instead, it wants to join forces with another consortium whose £6.3bn ($8.7bn) takeover bid has already been accepted.

Earlier this month, Morrisons agreed to an offer by another US group led by the owner of Majestic Wine.

The takeover bid - led by US private equity firm Fortress Investment Group - is subject to shareholder approval.

However, the supermarket group's directors are recommending acceptance.

Morrisons is the UK's fourth-largest UK supermarket chain, with nearly 500 shops and more than 110,000 staff.

Apollo said that discussions now under way "may result in funds managed or advised by Apollo forming part of the investment group led by Fortress for the purposes of the Fortress offer".

It added: "As a consequence of these discussions, Apollo confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for Morrisons other than as part of the Fortress offer."

Politicians have expressed concerns about the takeover, warning that any new owner could strip assets and reduce workers' rights.

The takeover battle for Morrisons began last month, when New York private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R) made a proposed £5.5bn bid, which was rejected.

Large private equity firms have been targeting UK supermarkets, which they view as undervalued and attractive because of their large property portfolios.

Last year, Apollo lost out on buying Asda, the UK's third-largest supermarket group, to the Issa brothers and TDR Capital.