The UK's takeover watchdog has set a deadline of 13 April for a private equity consortium to make a bid for supermarket group Sainsbury's.
Analysts believe a deal for Sainsbury's could be worth £10bn
The consortium - which includes CVC, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Blackstone and Texas Pacific - has until that date to make an offer or withdraw its plans.
Last month the group admitted it was considering the possibility of making a bid for Sainsbury's.
The Takeover Panel issued the deadline after a plea from Sainsbury's advisers.
Other companies have been reported as possible suitors for Sainsbury's since bid speculation began earlier this year.
Marks & Spencer said last week it had thought about making an offer but had decided against making any move for now. However, it added that it might make a bid if another party attempted a takeover.
Analysts estimate a deal for the UK's fourth largest supermarket could be worth as much as £10bn.
Sainsbury's is one month away from completing a three-year turnaround plan that has gone a long way towards reviving its fortunes.
Under chief executive Justin King, Sainsbury's has cut jobs, closed underperforming stores and improved the supply and distribution chain.
Sainsbury's have so far refused to comment on takeover speculation and analysts widely expect the company's board to resist any offer.