The two groups competing to buy supermarket chain Somerfield are putting the finishing touches on their offers and could submit bids for the supermarket chain within the next few weeks, according to the Reuters news agency, which quoted sources close to the bidders.

“There is a realistic prospect of a bid emerging in a couple of weeks,” said one.
“The team is working hard and making progress,” said another source close to the other camp.

A bid for the country’s fifth-largest grocer will end months of takeover speculation which began in March, when Icelandic retailer Baugur approached Somerfield with an unsolicited bid which valued the firm at £1.04bn (US$1.86bn).

Since then, two other groups have joined the fray and Baugur was forced to step down after its CEO, Jon Asgeir Johannesson, was charged with fraud. Johannesson denies all the charges.

The two remaining groups — a consortium of buyout firm Apax, Barclays Capital and property mogul Robert Tchenguiz bidding against property tycoons Ian and Richard Livingstone — have spent several months sifting through Somerfield’s books and are finally getting close to submitting their offers.

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“It’s proved to be a very complex transaction,” said another source, referring to the level of due diligence required.