Asda bid­ding war en­ters fi­nal phase as pri­vate eq­uity ri­vals cir­cle

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Hannah Boland

THE fu­ture of Asda could be de­cided this week, as pri­vate eq­uity firms fi­nalise bids for the £6.5bn su­per­mar­ket chain.

Ri­vals Apollo Global Man­age­ment and Lone Star Funds are un­der­stood to have been pre­par­ing of­fers to buy Bri­tain’s third-largest su­per­mar­ket from US gi­ant Wal­mart. Bids are due to­day.

Both com­pa­nies drafted in re­tail veter­ans to help ad­vise on their of­fers, hir­ing Rob Tem­ple­man, the for­mer boss of Deben­hams, and Paul Ma­son, ex- Asda chief ex­ec­u­tive, re­spec­tively.

The firms have been seen as the only two likely bid­ders in the race, al­though there has been talk of po­ten­tial fur­ther in­ter­est from a third bid­der, such as the own­ers of EG Group, Black­burn’s Issa brothers.

Wal­mart has been seek­ing a way to off­load the op­er­a­tions to al­low it to fo­cus on other, more lu­cra­tive mar­kets, such as In­dia.

The US gi­ant has also been linked to a pos­si­ble deal with Mi­crosoft to ac­quire the in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions of Tik­Tok, the so­cial me­dia app owned by ByteDance of China.

Asda, TDR and Apollo de­clined to com­ment. Lone Star and EG Group did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. The process to sell Asda was kicked off af­ter plans to merge the su­per­mar­ket chain with its ri­val Sains­bury’s were blocked by com­pe­ti­tion reg­u­la­tors last year.

How­ever, talks with pri­vate eq­uity firms had to be tem­porar­ily paused ear­lier this year due to the Covid-19 pan­demic. They ramped up again over the sum­mer.

Wal­mart is ex­pected to keep a mi­nor­ity stake in Asda if a pri­vate eq­uity sale goes ahead.

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