The future of book store chain Borders was hanging in the balance today after it emerged the group had applied to appoint administrators.
Borders, which has around 45 Borders and Books Etc stores across the UK, was revealed to have lodged a notice of intent to appoint administrators on Monday following the reported collapse of takeover negotiations.
But it is believed to be scrambling to secure a rescue deal to avoid collapse.
The company is not taking orders on its website and has launched "closing down sales" at some stores.
Its call centre is telling customers that Borders is in discussions with "potential buyers" and that the ordering system has been frozen until confirmation of a deal is received.
It is thought that Borders was hoping to sell the bulk of its store portfolio to WH Smith, but its high street rival is understood to have walked away from the deal last Friday.
Borders - bought in July under a private-equity backed management buyout - is thought to have suffered in recent years as sales fell because of pressure from supermarkets and the internet.
The firm is reportedly concerned it does not have enough cash to make it through Christmas.
It is believed to have struggled because of tough trade credit insurance conditions this year, making it difficult for it to secure stock from suppliers.
According to the Daily Telegraph, HMV-owned Waterstone's is interested in a number of shops, while the Publishers Association is also thought to have established a committee to try and find a way for publishers to continue trading with the firm.
The firm had applied to appoint BDO Stoy Hayward as its administrator.
But a spokeswoman for BDO today said that the firm had uncovered a "conflict" during its internal checks and is therefore unable to act for the book chain.
Borders was originally owned by the US book giant of the same name, but the UK and Ireland arm was sold to buyout group Risk Capital Partners - headed by Channel 4 chairman Luke Johnson - in 2007.
Management, led by chief executive Philip Downer and finance director Mark Little, then bought the group back with financing from Valco Capital earlier this year.
Borders's last set of available financial figures reportedly show that pre-tax losses jumped from £10.3 million to £13.6 million, with doubts raised over its ability to continue as a going concern.
The group was not immediately available for comment.