Homebase, the retail home improvement business owned by Britain's number two supermarket chain J Sainsbury, is being actively touted to potential buyers, it emerged yesterday.

Sainsbury believes that a sale could realise over £1 billion ($1.5bn) and has sent information packs to potential buyers, among them the world’s largest DIY chain Home Depot of the US, Europe's third biggest home improvements group LeRoy Merlin plus a number of venture capital firms. All are invited to respond to the approaches by September 30.

Sainsbury refused last night to comment on the matter, although insiders say that recently appointed chief executive Sir Peter Davis had personally ordered the soundings in his quest to realise shareholder value for the ailing group.

Sainsbury was prepared to talk, however, about the planned £350m expansion of its retail and distribution activities in the West Midlands. The expansion will be on so-called ‘brownfield’ (ex-industrial) sites and create a claimed 3,000 jobs.

[The claim appears to be at odds with the UK's National Retail Planning Forum Report, 1998, which alleges a net global loss of 276 jobs for every new supermarket opened.]

News source: Financial Times