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The fight for Safeway looks set to become a feeding frenzy as law firm conflicts bring new advisers into the fray. It seems Lovells, and possibly Denton Wilde Sapte, have been brought in to advise Waitrose and Marks & Spencer (M&S).
M&S is considering store acquisitions and Waitrose has intervened with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to object to further sector consolidation. However, it is highly likely that M&S is also talking to the OFT and that Waitrose is interested in acquiring stores from whomever wins the battle for Safeway.
Lovells is the preferred adviser to Waitrose's parent company John Lewis, and has worked for the supermarket chain in the past. The firm is not acting for any of the declared bidders and so would be free to advise Waitrose.
M&S is usually represented by Slaughter and May, which won a historic victory for the retailer when entrepreneur Philip Green launched a hostile bid for the store. However, Slaughters is acting for Wal-Mart, one of the favourites to take Safeway. Dentons has undertaken property work for M&S in the past and may have secured an instruction once M&S had realised that Slaughters was conflicted.