Morrisons boss says no concerns about private equity takeover

Morrisons head David Potts has insisted he has no issues with the supermarket being snapped up by private equity firms in a multi-billion deal.

A four-month bidding war has raged between Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and Fortress, inflating offers from 230p-a-share in June to 285p a few weeks ago.

When asked by The Times if he had any reservations about the 122-year-old Bradford business being bought by US companies, Potts said: “I don’t personally.”

“I think the intention statements are fulsome; clearly, there’s a bidding position going on and the debt-equity ratios look sensible,” he continued.

READ MORE: Morrisons bidding war to end with autumn auction showdown

Some believe the buyer could sell off a number of Morrisons properties, which analysts have indicated is the only way they can make a decent return.

Morrisons has the largest proportion of freeholds of the publicly-listed Big 4 grocers, owning around 87 per cent.

However, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice and Fortress have suggested they do not expect to make substantial asset sales.

Potts also claimed that the buyout battle had not been a distraction to the retailer’s management.

Earlier this month, the Takeover Panel decided the repeated bids had created “great uncertainty” for the FTSE 100 company.

An auction, happening in September or early next month, will bring the bidding war to a close.

A Clayton, Dubilier & Rice victory would reunite Potts with Sir Terry Leahy, a senior adviser to the New York giant who is being lined up as the new Morrisons chairman.

The two worked together at Tesco when Leahy was chief executive from 1997 to 2011.

“We’ve certainly enjoyed many years working together and it’s an important part of both our histories,” Potts said. 

“We talk about the industry and other things from time to time each and every year over the last 35.”

Asked whether he had considered his future, Potts said: “To be honest, it’s not something I give any thought to. 

“My whole being is engaged in running the company through quite a challenging year.”

Although the takeover has sent shares spiralling, investor interest was deflated yesterday by disappointing financials.

Pre-tax profits in the six months to August 1 fell by 43.4 per cent to £82 million, dragged down by Covid-19 costs and lost profits from cafés, food-to-go and fuel.

Like-for-like sales excluding fuel slipped 0.3 per cent.

Morrisons also warned that the supply chain problems and price rises would lead to inflation during the second half of the year. 

Pet food, fizzy drinks, water and some wine, crisps and juice have been affected by shortages, Potts said. 

Morrisons shares edged down by almost a penny to 291.5p.

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