UK supermarket chain and takeover target Safeway has reportedly been seeking offers for the 53 stores that Wm Morrison would have to sell if it buys Safeway.

Yorkshire-based supermarket firm Morrisons was told by the UK's competition authorities that it must sell off 53 Safeway stores if it is successful in a takeover bid for Safeway.

Safeway put the stores up for sale ten days ago when it wrote to Tesco, J Sainsbury, Wal-Mart's Asda and some smaller supermarket groups seeking offers, reported the Guardian, adding that the deadline for first offers is today [Friday].

"After discussions with the [Office of Fair Trading] and in agreement with Morrisons, we decided to invite bids for these 53 stores from the interested parties," a Safeway spokesman was quoted by the newspaper as saying.

"It is important to point out that we are not selling these stores. We are inviting bids.

"Any sale will be conditional on Morrison successfully bidding for Safeway," the spokesman said.