British grocer Morrisons is now the only bidder left in the auction of rival Safeway.

Morrisons – whose surprise offer for Safeway early this year launched a battle for control of Britain's fourth largest supermarket [WAMN: 10-Jan-03] – now has a clear run at completing the deal after retail entrepreneur Philip Green pulled out of the race.

Green and Morrisons were the only players left in the auction after interest from the 'big three' supermarkets – Tesco, J Sainsbury and Asda (owned by Wal-Mart) – was ruled out by competition regulators.

Green reportedly quit after learning that any attempt to offload surplus stores would prompt further anti-trust probes.

Bradford-based Morrisons, a relatively small player in the grocery sector, originally offered £2.9 billion ($4.9bn; €4.2bn) for Safeway, though this lapsed after the takeover target chose to consider alternative bids. Whether Morrisons' final offer is as high remains to be seen.

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff