British supermarket giant J Sainsbury’s pursuit of Home Retail Group, the owner of Argos and Homebase, is in jeopardy following a last-minute offer from a rival.
Steinhoff International, the owner of Harveys and Bensons for Beds, has made an offer worth 175p per share for Home Retail Group, the Times reported.
The news is a blow for Sainsbury’s, in which the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has a 25.1 percent stake. The retailer has been seeking to acquire Home Retail Group for three months, and had lodged a cash-and-shares offer for the firm valued at about 161p per share.
Sainsbury’s sees the acquisition as an opportunity to boost its online business and expand sales of items such as electrical goods.
The acquisition is a response to intense competition between British supermarket groups and will make Sainsbury's less reliant on food sales.
Argos is a general retailer which built its business around a catalogue from which shoppers could choose goods in stores and has now one of the most advanced online sales and delivery networks in the country.
Britain's retail sector has been hammered in recent years by the growth of discount groups including Germany's Aldi and Lidl and online competition.
While Sainsbury's has fared better than most, it believes it needs to improve its online sales and enhance its delivery capabilities in order to grow.