The UK takeover panel, which is overseeing the takeover battle for UK supermarket chain Safeway, has told several banks that their analysts will be restricted in their coverage of supermarket stocks from 1 August, according to a newspaper report.

Some interested parties have taken the panel’s warning to mean that the trade and industry secretary may make an early decision on which groups will be allowed to proceed with a bid for Safeway, reported the Guardian.

The competition commission has until 12 August to give its recommendation on the situation to Patricia Hewitt, who had not been expected to announce her decision until September.

According to the rules of the takeover panel, it is required to put restrictions in place one month before the secretary’s ruling is made. Some bankers have, however, dismissed the move as nothing more than an administrative procedure.