Jul 6, 2021 - Economy & Business

Fortress Investment Group agrees to buy British supermarket chain Wm Morrison

Illustration of a shopping basket with a UK flag.

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Fortress Investment Group, backed by SoftBank, agreed to buy British supermarket chain Wm Morrison (LSE: MRW) for £6.3 billion.

The big picture: The move comes after Morrisons rejected a £5.5 billion offer from Clayton Dubilier & Rice, and just before Apollo Global Management confirmed that it's considering a rival bid.

Why it matters: This may be more about promises than price. Fortress says it would maintain the company's Bradford headquarters and doesn't plan to pursue material sale/leaseback transactions, all of which could appeal to British regulators who are increasingly wary of foreign buyout firms snapping up undervalued assets.

Details: Fortress' bid is being supported by Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Koch Real Estate Investments.

The bottom line: "The latest private equity deal in the U.K. — the biggest in more than a decade — raises an awkward question for investors in the London stock market. How can the U.K.'s fourth-biggest supermarket chain be worth more to a consortium comprising Canadian pensioners and U.S. buyout and real-estate investors than to the home crowd? It looks like the starkest evidence yet of private investors exploiting the widespread aversion to U.K. stocks." — Chris Hughes, Bloomberg

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