UK supermarket group Wm Morrison has confirmed reports that it may sell up to 120 smaller Safeway stores in a bid to improve the performance of the supermarket chain it acquired earlier this year.

“At the time of the acquisition we said that we were surprised by the significant levels of interest shown in the smaller stores. That level of interest has been maintained and we now plan to test its full extent in the market,” a spokesman was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Earlier in the day The Times reported that Morrison had sent information memorandums concerning the proposed sale of a group of stores of less than 15,000 sq ft to several potential buyers.

One source told the newspaper that Morrison would most likely have to sell the stores in small groups rather than all to one buyer due to potential competition problems.

The sale of up to 120 stores would be on top of the 52 stores the company has to sell off in order to abide by Competition Commission requirements following Morrison’s takeover of Safeway.

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Big Food Group, which owns frozen food chain Iceland, John Lewis, which operates the Waitrose supermarket chain, and the UK’s Cooperative Group are all thought to be interested in buying some of the stores.