Lazard appointed to explore bid for rival grocer
Asda is thought to have taken on the services of investment bank Lazard to explore the possibilities of a bid for Somerfield. However, there is no indication as yet that the Wal-Mart-owned supermarket chain is serious about making a bid.

The City remains sceptical that Asda would have much to gain from acquiring the c-store chain other than the attention of the Competition Commission. What is more likely, should Asda go ahead with a bid for Somerfield, is that it will buy selected stores to convert into George outlets.

There is understood to be an informal deadline set by Somerfield's advisers for this week. Two consortia are believed to be interested in making a bid for the retailer. Baugur, Apax, Barclays Capital and Robert Tchenguiz is one, and the other includes Nomura and London & Regional.