Royal Mail is planning to raise an estimated £500m by selling up to half its mail sorting centres.
King Sturge, a property agent, has been asked to sell three centres in Warrington, Northampton and Manchester to test the market. It is hoped these will raise around £50m, with 25 to 35 centres in total likely to be sold off over the next 12 months.
Under the sale-and-leaseback arrangement, the centres would be bought and run by property companies, while Royal Mail would rent them back for 20 years. The sales would be one of the last big moves by outgoing chief executive Adam Crozier, whose controversial policies to reform the company have included closing thousands of post office branches and cutting jobs.
Mr Crozier is joining broadcaster ITV as chief executive later this year.
King Sturge declined to comment. Royal Mail did not contradict the story but a spokeswoman insisted: "We are committed to, and investing in, these sites for the long-term and have no plans whatsoever to vacate them."