Think tank founder condemns ‘asset-stripping’ Morrisons bidders

Tory peer Lord Vinson has warned that Britain will be left “poorer” if Morrisons is taken over by American “vulture” capitalists.

Vinson, 90, who founded the Centre for Policy Studies with ex-PM Margaret Thatcher, claimed the buyers planned to extract around £1 billion from the supermarket’s properties.

Morrisons owns 87 per cent of its freeholds, which analysts believe could be worth up to £9 billion.

Two New York private equity funds, Fortress and Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, are engaged in a bidding war for the Big 4 grocer.

READ MORE: Takeover battle for Morrisons extended as CD&R eyes higher bid

“It doesn’t bring any benefit except to the bidders,” Vinson said of the potential deal to the Daily Mail.

“I’m all for free markets and free trade, but there comes a point where it should be conducted within a moral framework. 

“There is only one reason for US vulture capital’s interest in Morrisons – they want to trouser a billion pounds.”

Vinson called for business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng to intervene.

“Why can’t somebody in the government say: ‘We don’t like the look of this?” he asked.

Morrisons chief executive David Potts met with Kwarteng last month to explain his support for the Fortress bid.

Vinson also said that major takeover bids should be referred to a beefed-up Competition and Markets Authority.

Private equity buyouts of British companies were valued at £41.5 billion in early July, marking the highest year on record.

Fortress has pledged to protect staff pensions, keep Morrisons’ head office in Bradford and maintain most of its properties.

However, commentators are sceptical that the firm will stick to its promises, which are not legally binding.

Some point to Cadbury buyer Kraft, which axed 400 jobs when it went back on its word by closing a factory in Bristol.

Shareholders will vote on the Fortress proposal on August 27, which was pushed back 11 days after the company raised its bid to 272p-a-share.

Clayton, Dubilier & Rice has until August 20 to increase the 230p bid it made in June.

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