The bidding war for Morrisons has taken another twist after one of its suitors, the US private equity group Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, was given more time to consider a rival offer.
The UK’s Takeover Panel, which regulates takeover activity, said it had given CD&R until 5pm on 20 August to announce a firm intention to make an offer for Morrisons or walk away, known as a “put up or shut up” deadline, an extension of the previous 9 August deadline.
On Friday, Morrisons asked the Takeover Panel to give CD&R more time to consider the latest offer from the rival bidder Fortress, the owner of Majestic Wine.
The US-backed bidder Fortress improved its offer for the UK’s fourth-largest supermarket by £400m to £6.7bn, in an attempt to win over reluctant shareholders.
The raised bid by Fortress, which is owned by the Japanese investment bank SoftBank, represents an offer of 270p a share, with a further 2p a share special dividend. Fortress said it was “committed to becoming the new owner of Morrisons”.
On Friday, Morrisons also announced it had postponed a shareholder meeting to vote on the Fortress offer to 27 August, 11 days later than previously scheduled.
Morrisons’ shares closed just below 279p on Friday, their highest level since 2013, which analysts considered a sign that shareholders were hoping to see a higher offer for the grocer. Shares were unchanged at that level on Monday.
CD&R began the battle for Morrisons in June, when it made an offer of 230p a share, amounting to just over £5.5bn, which was rejected by the company.
The Fortress consortium entered the fray at the start of July, when it made an initial bid of 254p a share, valuing the company at £6.3bn, which was approved by the Morrisons board.
However, since then the grocer’s largest shareholder, Silchester International Investors, which owns a 15% stake, has said it was “not inclined to support” the Fortress bid. At the time, the fund manager urged Morrisons’ board to wait for other bidders, which it said “might offer better value to Morrison’s public shareholders”.