Analysts had expected £150m to be sufficient to purchase the chain from Credit Lyonnais, the struggling French bank that has been forced into making the disposal. However, at least one bidder that put in a £150m bid has been told that it has not made it into the final shortlist.
The deadline to get on to the shortlist was Friday, and a sale is expected to be finalised next month. A management buy-in backed by the merchant bankers, Guinness Mahon, is believed to be on the shortlist. Other groups in the running are said to include Rank and Time Warner.