Date set for investors’ vote on takeover of Morrisons

Shareholders in Morrisons will vote on the £7bn takeover offer from US private equity group Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R) on October 19.

Bradford-based Morrisons set the date for the hotly contested deal to be voted on. However, with rival bidder Fortress Investment Group yet to walk away, a "competitive situation" exists and the Takeover Panel could step in and require an auction to take place.

The fight for Britain's fourth-largest grocer after Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda, is the most high-profile looming takeover amid a raft of bids and counter bids, reflecting private equity's appetite for UK Plc.

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Morrisons said earlier this month that it was talking to both bidders and the Takeover Panel, which governs M&A deals in the UK, about "an orderly framework for the resolution of this competitive situation" - which would typically be an auction.

CD&R has reiterated that Morrisons' head office will stay in Bradford if its bid is successful

"A formal announcement relating to any auction procedure will be made by the Panel in due course if the competitive situation continues," it said in the statement.

Following completion of an auction, Morrisons shareholders would vote on either a Fortress or a CD&R offer, depending on which offer Morrisons' board recommended.

CD&R's latest offer is worth 285p per Morrisons share while Fortress pitched its bid at 272p a share. It has said it is considering its options.

The news comes as a Yorkshire MP is seeking written assurances that Morrisons will continue to pay UK corporate taxes if it is bought by one of its private equity suitors.

Kevin Hollinrake, the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, said he planned to write to Sir Terry Leahy, the former Tesco boss who is leading the bid from CD&R, to ask him to set out clearly his plans for Morrisons.

Mr Hollinrake told The Yorkshire Post: "I am not against private equity investment but we have to make sure they do not benefit from any in-built tax advantage. We must do more to establish and maintain a fair and level playing field for all businesses that operate in the UK."

On Sunday, a spokesman confirmed that Morrisons will continue to pay taxes in the UK if it is taken over by CD&R.

CD&R has reiterated that Morrisons' head office will stay in Bradford if its bid is successful.

A spokesman said: "Should CD&R assume ownership of Morrisons, the company will remain headquartered and registered in the UK and continue to pay taxes in the UK."