High street retailer Marks & Spencer has ruled out a bid for the J Sainsbury supermarket group - but says it reserves the right to change its mind at almost any time.

In a statement released late last night (28 February) Britain's largest clothing retailer confirmed rumours reported on just-style earlier this month that it has been considering a merger with the UK's third-largest grocery chain.

But it added "the Board has decided that it does not intend to make an offer for Sainsbury at this time."

M&S said that under takeover and merger rules it cannot make a bid in the next six months unless it receives a recommendation from the Sainsbury's board or another offer is put on the table.

M&S also reserves the right to launch a takeover if there is a "material change in circumstances".

A consortium of private equity firms, led by CVC, is known to be mulling a bid for Sainsbury's - and rumours of further interest have been rampant.

A merger between Sainsbury's and M&S would create a retail giant with around 1,000 stores and a combined turnover of GBP25bn (US49bn).