Sainsbury’s to buy 13 stores amid private equity buzz

Sainsbury’s is set to buy the freeholds to 13 of its stores in a display of “balance sheet strength”.

It will take on the properties, currently held by an investment trust, in March 2023 after the leases expire.

The Big 4 grocer will also be able to buy ten more properties from the same portfolio between December 2021 and January 2022.

Atrato Capital director Ben Green said the purchase proved “the strength of demand for grocery property” and “balance sheet strength” of supermarkets.

READ MORE: Sainsbury’s in crosshairs of $88 billion buyout firm

It comes amid speculation, fuelled by the Morrisons bidding war, that Sainsbury’s could face a private equity takeover.

However, it is seen as a less appealing target because it owns just 50 to 60 per cent of its freeholds.

The recent purchases may whet investor appetites, although chairman Martin Scicluna has previously sought to dampen takeover rumours.

After interest from buyout firm Apollo last month, Sainsbury’s share price spiked to 340p before dropping as an offer failed to materialise.

Last week, Bernstein analyst William Woods said Tesco was “more attractive” to private equity buyers despite its £32 billion price tag.

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