The sale of Somerfield, the UK convenience retailer, will go ahead as planned, one of the company's owners has told just-food.

Apax Partners, which alongside fellow owners Barclays Capital and property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz put Somerfield up for sale in January, said the business remains up for grabs despite doubts over the level of interest in the retailer.

"The sale process is still going on," a spokesman for Apax Partners said today (27 March).

Questions over the sale of Somerfield grew last week amid rumours that the planned GBP2bn (US$4bn) auction had hit the buffers after the business received only one full bid before the 14 March deadline.

The uncertainty intensified after a report in The Times claimed that Apax and Tchenguiz had split over the prospect of a sale following the muted interest in the company.

The Apax spokesman dismissed the report but declined to comment further.

Separately, Somerfield said its like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, had risen 6.4% for the 12 weeks up to Easter.

"We have outperformed the food retail industry, as measured by IGD, for 16 of the last 20 weeks," said Somerfield chief executive Paul Mason.