Morrisons buyer seeks to win over sceptics

The consortium behind a £6.3 billion bid for Morrisons hopes to see off rival buyers with commitments emphasising its “wider responsibilities”.

US private equity firm Fortress, which leads the investment group, pledged to maintain the supermarket’s head office in Bradford and preserve staff pension rights. 

It also ruled out selling Morrisons’ stores through sale and leasebacks, pointing to its property management of Majestic Wine.

“Majestic Wine retains ownership of a significant freehold store estate and has not sold any of its freehold or long-leasehold properties under Fortress’s ownership,” the company said in a statement.

READ MORELabour warns against ‘dodgy’ Morrisons takeover

Meanwhile, Morrisons executives are thought to have launched a charm offensive to woo sceptical shareholders and politicians.

They have written to business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to assure him that Morrisons and Fortress “place very significant emphasis on the wider responsibilities of ownership of Morrisons, including recognising the legacy of Sir Ken Morrison”.

However, a number of shareholders seem uneasy about the potential buyout.

One source told The Telegraph they would be “disappointed” if buyout firm Clayton, Dubilier and Rice, which made a £5.5 billion bid last month, did not gatecrash the deal.

Fortress’ offer is well below the £6.5 billion floor recommended by Morrisons’ 10th-largest shareholder, J O Hambro. 

Legal and General, another shareholder, yesterday took aim at the private equity bids by warning the supermarket could be taken over for the “wrong reasons”.

Buyers might plan to take advantage of Morrisons’ undervalued property portfolio, load it up with debt, or cut its tax bill, the trillion-pound multinational claimed.

It criticised the Clayton, Dubilier and Rice offer earlier this month, arguing the potential buyer would not bring any “genuine value” to the Big 4 grocer.

FinanceSupermarkets

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