The battle for UK retailer Morrisons – The story so far

The battle to acquire Morrisons, Britain's fourth-largest supermarket group, is the most high-profile looming takeover in the country amid a raft of bids and counter bids, reflecting private equity's appetite for UK-based companies.

Here's a timeline of events so far:

June 19: Morrisons announces that it has rejected a proposed £5.52 billion cash offer (€6.4 billion) from US private equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R), which it received on 17 June. The offer is described by Morrisons as having 'significantly undervalued' the business.

June 22: Amazon, a potential suitor for Morrisons, is remaining silent on the deal, however Andy Halliwell, senior director at digital consultancy Publicis Sapient, believes the timing isn't quite right for the online retail giant. "It may just be too soon for Amazon to commit to the UK marketplace," he says.

June 30: Morrisons investor JO Hambro says CD&R should increase its offer to around £6.5 billion.

July 3: Morrisons agrees to a £6.3 billion (€7.34 billion) takeover offer from a consortium led by SoftBank owned Fortress Investment Group. “The Morrisons directors believe that the offer represents a fair and recommendable price for shareholders which recognises Morrisons’ future prospects," says Morrisons chairman Andrew Higginson.

July 5: A third private equity group, Apollo Global Management, says it is evaluating a possible offer for Morrisons. Last year, Apollo missed out on acquiring Morrisons' supermarket rival, Asda.

July 6: Chris Elliott, head of market insights at Edge by Ascential, says that Fortress could be a 'good fit' for Morrisons, noting that it "has a track record of supporting the grocery industry, as it invested in the US in Albertsons, A&P and Circle K. Closer to home, it also bought Majestic Wines at the end of 2019."

July 20: Apollo says it will not bid for Morrisons on its own but may join the Fortress consortium.

July 22: Scheme document outlining Fortress' offer is published and a date of August 16 is set for Morrisons' shareholders to vote on the offer. Takeover panel gives CD&R until August 9 to announce a firm intention to make an offer or walk away - a so-called 'put-up or shut-up' order.

July 27: Silchester, Morrisons' biggest shareholder, says that it is not inclined to support Fortress' offer.

July 28: Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, GIC, joins the Fortress-led private equity consortium.

July 29: Morrisons investor M&G says Fortress' offer does not reflect the value of supermarket group. Rupert Krefting, head of corporate finance and stewardship at M&G, suggests that the proposed benefits outlined under the Fortress proposals could be achieved by remaining in public ownership.

August 3: Morrisons shares hit an eight-year high due to the ongoing bidding war for the retailer, reaching 272 pence per share, and continuing to rise.

August 6: Morrisons agrees to an improved takeover offer worth £6.7 billion (€7.91 billion) from Fortress and adjourns a shareholder meeting to vote on the offer to August 27. Morrisons' directors describe the improved offers as being "in the best interests of Morrisons shareholders as a whole".

August 9: Takeover panel extends CD&R's 'put-up or shut-up' deadline to August 20, as Morrisons share price closes in on 280 pence per share.

To be continued...

Source: Reuters, in conjunction with ESM