Supermarket group Morrisons has said that it is in talks with its two US private equity suitors and the Takeover Panel, which governs deals in the UK, regarding an auction procedure to settle its future ownership.
Last month, Morrisons agreed a £7 billion (€8.14 billion) offer from Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R). However, a rival consortium led by Softbank-owned Fortress Investment Group could still trump CD&R's bid.
On the basis that neither party has declared their offers final, 'such that either offer may be further increased or otherwise revised, a competitive situation continues to exist', Morrisons said in a statement.
Morrisons said shareholder meetings to vote on the CD&R offer will be convened for a date in or around the week starting October 18.
It said any auction process would take place prior to these shareholder meetings, on a date that would be announced by the Takeover Panel.
Following this, Morrisons shareholders would vote on either a Fortress or CD&R offer, the retailer noted.
'Following completion of the Auction Procedure, the Morrisons Board anticipates proceeding with either the Fortress Meetings or the CD&R Meetings depending on which offer it is recommending to Morrisons shareholders,' it said.
Morrisons said it expected a scheme document on CD&R's offer to be posted to shareholders around September 25.
CD&R's latest offer is worth 285 pence per Morrisons share.
Morrisons, which announces its interim results later this week, saw its shares closed Tuesday at 291.1 pence, indicating investors are hoping for a higher offer.
'In addition to the financial terms of any offer, the Morrisons Board continues to place very significant emphasis on the wider responsibilities of ownership of Morrisons,' the retailer said of the ongoing bidding process.
'These responsibilities include a recognition of the importance to the Morrisons business of all stakeholders, including colleagues, customers, pension trustees and suppliers as well as the distinct heritage and history of Morrisons and the legacy of Sir Ken Morrison.'