Renewed speculation about a possible bid by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund for Sainsbury’s gathered pace yesterday after the fund sold 396 million shares in Barclays.

The sale netted the Qataris a £650m profit and led to speculation about what they would do with the cash.

Qatar already owns a 26% stake in Sainsbury’s, and shares in the supermarket rose 5% following the speculation. Last week Sainsbury’s shares rose as much as 20% after renewed speculation first emerged.

The Qataris pulled away from an offer of £10.5bn for the supermarket two years ago.