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The turmoil that has affected Ahold, leading to the forced resignations of its CEO and CFO, and then the forced resignation of Fleming CEO Mark Hansen, all but obscured the acquisition frenzy in the UK that was capturing the attention of industry watchers there and abroad.

Dow Jones reports that industry experts there seem to be leaning toward Wal-Mart as the company most likely to end up acquiring all or most of Safeway Plc, mostly because it has the cash and the infrastructure to absorb the company with the least amount of trouble.

In addition, British regulatory authorities have warned all the companies involved with trying to buy Safeway -- Tesco, Wal-Mart, Sainsbury, Morrison’s, and retail magnate Philip Green – that they are legally prohibited from leaking information either about Safeway’s financial condition or their own bids. This warning followed a newspaper report suggesting that due diligence had discovered that Safeway Plc was less valuable than originally thought.
KC's View:
The real wild card in all this would seem to be what happens with Ahold. Because if all or part of the Dutch retailer suddenly comes on the market, it might change the balance of power among the chains seeking Safeway.