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Private Equity Team Eyeing U.K. Supermarket

Private equity firms CVC, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Blackstone said on Friday they were in the early stages of assessing a possible bid for British supermarket group J Sainsbury.

Shares in Britain's third-biggest supermarket group leapt as much as 18% to an 8-year high of 526-1/2 pence, valuing the business at as much as 9.7 billion pounds ($19.1 billion).

"No decision has been made regarding the relative merits of an offer and as a consequence there can be no assurance that any offer for Sainsbury will be forthcoming," the private equity firms said in a statement.

Sainsbury declined to comment. Sainsbury has long been tipped as a potential target for
private equity firms, with some analysts suggesting they could finance a deal in part by selling and leasing back its stores.

The takeover talk was given a fresh boost on Thursday when the company disclosed that the Sainsbury family trust had sold 40 million shares, cutting its stake to 238 million shares, or
13.9%. The family holding has often been cited as a potential obstacle to a takeover.

At 0915 GMT, Sainsbury shares were up 15.7% at 514 pence.