Somerfield, the convenience store chain, has offered itself for auction to a number of supermarket groups, including Asda, J Sainsbury and Wm Morrison. Financial Times, Daily Telegraph

Citigroup has been appointed to run the auction of the 955-store group, which was bought by a consortium of Robert Tchenguiz, the property magnate; Barclays Capital; and Apax Partners, the private equity group, for £1.8bn two years ago.

The sellers are thought to be seeking to double their £500m equity investment at least, suggesting they value the company at £2bn-£2.5bn.

A person close to the auction process said Tchenguiz and Barclays were both seeking liquidity. Tchenguiz was hit late last year by the unravelling of his £4.5bn joint venture with pub group Mitchells & Butlers and a drop in the value of his 10% stake in Sainsbury after bid interest from Qatar was withdrawn.

One retailer said John Lovering, chairman and shareholder, had been positioning Somerfield for a sale for some time and had let it be known around the industry that he was open to offers. It is thought that Citigroup aims to sell the company in one block, but other retailers are likely to want only pockets of stores.