BBC Radio this morning carried a report that US retail giant Wal-Mart Stores has confirmed its interest in making an all-cash bid for British supermarket chain Safeway (which is unconnected to the US grocery business of the same name).

Wal-Mart’s is the second hat to be thrown into the ring after last Thursday’s announcement that Safeway, Britain's fourth largest supermarket group, had agreed an all-stock offer from its smaller (but infinitely more profitable) Northern rival William Morrison [WAMN: 10-Jan--03].

Morrison’s bid was trumped over the weekend by a cash and stock bid from J Sainsbury, number two in the UK supermarket league.

Wal-Mart, which already owns Albion’s number three supermarketeer Asda, has yet to attach a price tag to its offer but this will have to top Sainsbury’s expected £3.2 billion ($5.12bn; €4.84bn) opening bid.

But whatever the number of trailing zeros, what will count most is the decision of the Competition Commission, which is thought unlikely to approve any of the existing Big Four ingesting another member of the quartet.

Which will leave Morrison, the nation’s most profitable supermarket group, exactly where it began – and probably exactly where Sir Ken Morrison, its canny 72-year-old chairman, intended it to be.

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