The chain is reported to have offered itself to a number of supermarkets including Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons. Co-operative Group chief executive Peter Marks has said he would consider making a bid for the rival chain.
Somerfield was bought two years ago for£1.8 billion by a consortium of Robert Tchenguiz, Barclays Capital and private equity group Apax. The sellers are thought to be seeking a price of between£2 billion and£2.5 billion for the 900-store chain, which would at least double their£500 million investment.
Shareholders are said to be hoping that the chain is sold as a whole, but bidders are most likely to only want select parts of the company.
For the three weeks to January 5, Somerfield posted like-for-like sales up 6.7 per cent, excluding fuel.