Safeway, the UK’s fourth largest supermarket group, has created a joint venture with a private property group to explore how it might best exploit the potential of its 480 stores and land surrounding them.

Safeway has hooked up with London & Regional, operated by brothers Ian and Richard Livingstone, to investigate ways of drawing maximum value from its property portfolio, currently valued at some £3bn (US$4.39bn). Selective developments at certain stores could include building above parking space, or on top of stores, this space then being let out as office facilities.

The move could unlock tens of millions of pounds for the two groups.

The latest research figures by Taylor Nelson Sofres show that Safeway was the only one of the ‘big four’ to see its market share decrease in the three months to the end of April – from 7% to 6.8%. Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury all saw their market share increase or, in Sainsbury’s case, remain static.

Safeway announces its full year results on Wednesday. The group is expected to report pre-tax profits of £350m, a 9% increase on last year.