Shares sale adds to Sainsbury's uncertainty

One of Sainsbury’s top 10 shareholders has sold off a significant chunk of its holding for far less than the 600p-a-share price proposed by the Qatari investment fund stalking the chain, it emerged today.

One of Sainsbury’s top 10 shareholders has sold off a significant chunk of its holding for far less than the 600p-a-share price proposed by the Qatari investment fund stalking the chain, it emerged today.

Hedge fund Lansdowne Partners is understood to have cut its 2.1% stake in the group by a third yesterday, selling around 12 million shares for some £65 million.

The move added to growing concerns that Qatari fund Delta Two will be forced to walk away from a deal to buy Sainsbury’s as the credit market squeeze makes it increasingly difficult to secure funding.

Delta Two would need to raise more than £7 billion in debt to finance its proposed £10.6 billion offer.

Last week it was reported that bankers who had agreed to stump up the cash were getting nervous about their ability to sell-on the debt given the recent crisis in global credit markets.

Retail analyst Richard Ratner of Seymour Pierce said today the odds were 55:45 against Delta Two’s takeover hopes succeeding, but he added they could still “pull it off”.

He said: “Were it a simple private equity leveraged buy-out situation, it would be off in the current marketplace.

“However, the Qataris, we believe are still persisting. They have plenty of their own cash and could afford an all equity bid if they wanted to.”

There has been no update from either party since talks were reportedly held earlier this month.

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