Blackstone Group has pulled out of a consortium of three firms bidding for Australian retailer Coles Group, a source familiar with the situation said.
Speculation has swirled about the commitment of the consortium, which includes private equity firms Texas Pacific Group and Carlyle Group, to pursuing Coles.
A Blackstone spokeswoman declined to comment.
Three other members of the original consortium of six, including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, pulled out in late May, citing concerns about the costs involved in turning around the supermarkets business at Coles.
Coles has set a deadline of June 30 for binding offers for all or part of the company. It put itself up for sale in February after poor performance in its core food and liquor business. The frontrunner is conglomerate Wesfarmers, which said on Monday it is considering increasing the scrip part of its A$19.7 billion ($16.7 billion) offer, to make it more attractive to Coles' large retail shareholder base.
Senior TPG executives were due to make presentations at a partner conference in Aspen, Colorado, on Tuesday, about a bid for Coles. Last year, TPG led a group that bought Coles' Myer department stores, and has since boosted profits by 80%.