Supermarket chain J Sainsbury is in advanced talks to sell a portfolio of prime retail properties to a London-listed property investor for around £500m.

Sky News has learned that LXi REIT, which has a market value of around £2.5 billion, is close to a deal to acquire the ownership of nearly 20 Sainsbury’s stores, which the grocer will then lease out.

A property industry source said on Tuesday night that LXi was likely to try to raise hundreds of millions of pounds to finance the acquisition, with part of the consideration also including an unspecified amount of debt.

If confirmed, the deal would come months after it emerged that Sainsbury’s was considering selling the portfolio.

A number of other parties are believed to have expressed interest in acquiring it.

Supermarket groups are under pressure from investors to improve the efficiency of their balance sheets, with both Asda and Wm Morrison having been bought by new owners in the past two years.

LXi REIT has been active this year, agreeing to take over peer Secure Income REIT a few months ago.

Among the high-profile assets it owns are properties that are part of Merlin Entertainment, the group behind the Alton Towers, Legoland and Thorpe Park theme parks.

It invests in commercial property assets that benefit from long leases, typically spanning decades, and is a member of the FTSE-250 index.

LXI and Sainsbury’s declined to comment.

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