Sir Kenneth Morrison (72), executive chairman of Britain’s fifth largest supermarket chain William Morrison, reiterated to his shareholders on Friday that his was still the only concrete bid for the hand of number four grocer Safeway, notwithstanding the backstage manoeuvrings of other suitors.

“Despite the expressions of interest made by others, Morrison's offer is still the only one on the table,” said Sir Ken. His remarks coincided with the unveiling of the group’s H1 trading figures which pointed to robust organic growth in the run-up to Christmas – it is not lack of growth that motivated the Safeway offer, he insisted.

Morrison’s, which shows a clean pair of heels to other major UK supermarkets in terms of profit margins, had lodged a deliverable offer which would create a powerful fourth force in national grocery retailing, said Sir Ken.

He contrasted this with likely bids by the big three supermarketeers (Tesco, J Sainsbury and Wal-Mart’s Asda) which would throttle competition: “Any other combination would be bad news for suppliers and customers, who would face the risk of less choice and higher prices.”

Many observers believe that competition concerns will eliminate the grocery threesome from the contest, leaving Morrison’s to eyeball retail wheeler-dealer Philip Green and a pair of prowling US private equity groups, Texas Pacific and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

The smart money is on the steely pensioner.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff