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LONDON - The bidding war for the British supermarket chain Safeway PLC escalated Friday when U.S. buyout specialist Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. said it had made an approach to Britain's fourth-largest food retailer, The Associated Press reports.
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts is the fourth company to express an interest in Safeway and the first private equity firm to do so.
Wal-Mart-owned ASDA Group PLC said earlier this week that Wal-Mart might make an offer.
ASDA's rival Sainsbury PLC had already announced its interest in buying Safeway, which is not related to the U.S. grocery company of the same name.
William Morrison Supermarkets PLC sparked the takeover battle last week with a surprise, all-share offer worth 2.9 billion pounds ($4.7 billion).
Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, headquartered in New York, said it was "considering its position in relation to a potential offer for the company." The matter was at a preliminary stage, and there could be no certainty that any proposal would be forthcoming, it said.
KKR made its name with a spate of deals during the 1980s, including the $25 billion acquisition of RJR Nabisco, the biggest corporate buyout of that decade.
It once briefly owned Safeway after backing a management buyout of the chain's U.S. parent, Safeway Inc., in 1986. Safeway Inc. sold its 133 British stores to Argyle, a British company, in 1987. Argyle later changed its name to Safeway PLC.
If KKR makes a successful bid for Safeway, it would likely break up the chain and sell the pieces.