January 17, 2008 / 6:44 AM / 12 years ago

Somerfield said to be for sale

Convenience store chain Somerfield has put itself up for sale and could change hands for as much as 2.5 billion pounds in an auction being run by Citigroup, newspapers reported on Thursday. REUTERS/Handout

LONDON (Reuters) - Convenience store chain Somerfield has put itself up for sale and could change hands for as much as 2.5 billion pounds in an auction being run by Citigroup (C.N), sources familiar with the matter said.

The consortium that bought Somerfield for 1.8 billion pounds two years ago, which includes Barclays Capital, private equity arm Apax Partners and property magnate Robert Tchenguiz, had decided to sell the business, the sources said on Thursday.

There had been at least three expressions of interest for the 955-store chain, from supermarket groups J Sainsbury (SBRY.L), Wal-Mart’s (WMT.N) Asda and Morrison (MRW.L), added one of the sources.

Waitrose, the upmarket supermarket group run by employee-owned retailer John Lewis JLP.UL, might also be interested, reported the Times.

A sale of the chain, which said on Thursday that like-for-like sales excluding fuel for the three weeks ended January 5 rose 6.7 percent, could fetch between 2 billion and 2.5 billion pounds, the source said.

A spokesman for Tchenguiz was unavailable for comment.

Reporting by Mathieu Robbins and Mark Potter, editing by Will Waterman

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