A group of investors led by SoftBank Group Corp.’s Fortress Investment Group LLC agreed Saturday to acquire U.K. grocery chain WM Morrison Supermarkets PLC for more than $8.7 billion, a bet that the retailer can thrive in a hypercompetitive industry grappling with the shift to online commerce.
New York-based Fortress has joined forces with Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, and the real-estate arm of Koch Industries, a private conglomerate headed by billionaire Charles Koch, to make the offer of £6.3 billion, equivalent to $8.71 billion.
That sets up a potential bidding war for the U.K.’s fourth-largest grocery-chain operator after it rejected a £5.5 billion takeover proposal last month from U.S. private-equity firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice.
A CD&R representative declined to comment Saturday. The buyout firm has said it was considering making a formal offer. It has until July 17 to make that decision.
The Fortress-led deal is worth roughly 42% more than Morrisons’s trading price in mid-June, before Clayton Dubilier & Rice’s interest in the grocery chain became public.