Takeover speculation has pushed up the price of Morrisons shares today.

It is reported that members of the founding family have been in contact with buy-out firms such as CVC and Carlyle about working together on a possible move to take the Bradford-based company private.

The news from a City agency sent shares up by more than three per cent.

Members of the Morrisons family are believed to hold about nine per cent of the company, but any bid would have to value the chain at more than £7 billion, making it the biggest retail takeover since Alliance Boots in 2007.

The reported move comes as new figures confirm that morrisons grocery market share has slipped again.

According to retail analysts Kantar Worldpanel, Morrisons market share fell to 11.3 per cent, compared with 11.8 per cent a year ago.

The supermarket was also the biggest loser in the sector over the Christmas period, with like-for-like sales dropping by 5.6 per cent.

It has arrived late to the online grocery shopping market, starting its Morrisons.com business in partnership with online operator Ocado last month, with deliveries to Bradford and other parts of Yorkshire beginning last week.