Supermarket group Sainsbury’s is rumoured to be considering buying Palmer & Harvey (P&H), a grocery and tobacco wholesaler that services convenience stores, petrol stations – and Sainsbury’s itself as well as arch rival Tesco.

P&H is owned by current and former employees and is one of the largest privately-owned companies in the UK. But in April it went through a refinancing arrangement funded by two of its own suppliers, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Brands.

Creditors have since decided “to explore a change of ownership”, Sky News reported. It is understood that PricewaterhouseCoopers has been appointed to find a buyer. Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland are said to be concerned about the impact on P&H of Tesco’s own attempt to acquire rival wholesaler Booker – a deal currently being examined by competition authorities.

Tesco reportedly accounts for 40% of P&H’s revenue.

Sainsbury is said by Sky News to have “already provided some support” to P&H through its supply chain finance platform.