11/02/2005

Morrisons dismiss takeover speculation

Leading supermarket chain Morrisons has dismissed speculation that it is braced for a takeover.

Reports on Friday morning suggested that US-owned chain, Asda, was believed to be on the verge of signing a deal to take over the 13 former Safeway stores in the province. However, a statement for Morrisons said the rumours were “incorrect”.

"Following the recent media speculation, that ASDA is on the verge of purchasing the 13 Safeway stores in Northern Ireland, Morrisons Plc is stating that this information is incorrect,” a Morrisons spokesperson said.

In a separate statement, Asda said the rumours were simply speculation and that it wouldn’t comment on them.

However, a leading retail expert from the University of Ulster has said that if the rumours were true it would be great news for consumers in the province.

Donald McFetridge from the School of Business, Retail and Financial Services, said customers would see price-cutting and supermarket savings like never before if the Asda chain entered the Northern Ireland marketplace.

“Rumours have persisted about the potential sale of the 13 Morrison’s owned stores in Northern Ireland to a foreign buyer for quite some time now. It appears that Asda/Wal-Mart may be about to sign a very cool deal in order to purchase the stores,” said Donald.

“Such a deal would be great news for Northern Ireland’s consumers as we would see price-cuts and savings never before realised here – even since the arrival of Sainsburys and Tesco in 1997.

“Asda has long sought to gain a foothold in Northern Ireland and are known to have purchased sites for future large-scale developments. Acquisition of an existing supermarket chain or group could be the first step for Asda to gain entry into Northern Ireland and eventually the whole of Ireland,” he added.

(MB/SP)

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