KKR is reportedly eyeing a bid for Asda under the direction of senior adviser and the grocer’s former boss Tony De Nunzio.
It is understood that the American buyout firm would appoint De Nunzio as Asda’s chairman if it were to make a deal to acquire the chain, according to The Sunday Times.
The private equity firm’s reported interest in the supermarket comes hot on the heels of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) issuing provisional findings which highlighted “extensive competition concerns” about the proposed merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda last week.
The competition watchdog said the grocers would need to sell at least 300 stores to a single buyer in order to approve the tie-up – a stance which will likely trigger the collapse of the proposed merger.
KKR, which owns Trainline and has invested in Alliance Boots, reportedly considered a bid for Sainsbury’s in 2016 and was one of the bidders for Safeway 15 years ago.
De Nunzio, who is a senior adviser for KKR and the current chairman of Pets at Home, spent 11 years at Asda between 1994 and 2005 and three as chief executive.
Sources close to the situation said that any private equity deal to acquire Asda would need to be structured so that current owner Walmart could retain a stake.
This arrangement would both make an Asda acquisition more affordable, retain the benefit of Walmart’s buying power and allow the US chain to continue to snap up its UK subsidiary’s most talented executives.