Uncertain future for Safeway staff

UNCERTAINTY over the future was continuing for staff at Felixstowe's Safeway store today as two more supermarket giants prepared takeover bids.Executives at Safeway have already agreed a £2.

UNCERTAINTY over the future was continuing for staff at Felixstowe's Safeway store today as two more supermarket giants prepared takeover bids.

Executives at Safeway have already agreed a £2.9 billion deal with rival Morrisons, which has a store in Ipswich.

But today there were fresh reports that both Sainsbury's and US chain Wal-Mart – owners of Asda – were also interested in buying the company.

Rumours of a bid from Wal-Mart first surfaced back in the autumn, but then no firm offer was made.

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It had been thought that Sainsbury's and Wal-Mart would join forces for a single takeover that involved dividing up Safeway's stores.

But those talks are reported to have collapsed in November and left the way clear for Bradford-based Morrison's to table its surprise deal last week.

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The tie-up brings together the UK's fourth and fifth largest supermarket groups and creates a firm with nearly 600 stores and around 140,000 staff.

But Wal-Mart, the world's biggest grocer, is thought to view Safeway as the ideal opportunity to pull level with industry leader Tesco in the UK.

It could be prepared to entice Safeway shareholders by trumping Morrisons' all-share deal with a cash offer worth in the region of £3 billion.

Sainsbury's board is reported to have met over the weekend and is expected to announce an intention to offer a mixture of cash and shares.

Both companies have declined to comment on their rumoured bids.

While none of the takeover deals is thought to threaten jobs at individual stores – the most likely casualties being in middle management with the merger of head office operations – the rumours are still worrying staff at Felixstowe.

"We have been told nothing yet – we just keep hearing stories about what is happening on the news. It is very worrying," said one part-time staff member.

Felixstowe's Safeway store and filling station in Grange Farm Avenue opened about ten years ago and serves the west part of the seaside town as well as attracting shoppers from out of town.

It took time for the site to build up steady business, but now it is thriving at the heart of a complex which also includes a pub, church, health surgery, post office, pharmacy and other shops.

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