Mr Ashton would not be drawn on which companies Wheway was negotiating with. He said some talks were at an embryonic stage, others further developed.
It also emerged yesterday that McLeod's all-share offer represented a substantial improvement on the terms the two companies failed to agree when discussions ended in December.
The two boards had been negotiating since September but talks broke down, it is understood, because of the price McLeod was prepared to pay. Mr Ashton admitted that Wheway needed the cash resources of a 'robust partner', but said McLeod was only one of several interested parties.
One rumoured bidder, Senior Engineering, denied that it was looking at Wheway.
McLeod Russel's shares slipped 2p to 98p yesterday while Wheway's rose to 9.5p. The bid values Wheway at just under 10p a share on the basis of one McLeod share for 10 of Wheway.