Barracuda chief executive Mark McQuater is hoping to lead a management buyout at the company after its owner, PPM Ventures, prepares to exit the business after five years.
McQuater believes a fresh private-equity investor in Barracuda will leave it better placed to take part in high-street consolidation.
Citigroup has been appointed to advise on future strategic options at Barracuda, which include a refinancing, an Initial Public Offering or sale to another private-equity or trade buyer.
McQuater said: "I think (an MBO) is the likely outcome. In all probability we are looking at a refinancing here. We have lots of private-equity interest we have a queue a mile long of private-equity guys looking to replace PPM Ventures.
"Private equity investors are still under-represented on the managed side."
McQuater said a fresh private-equity investor would leave it able to "bring other businesses into the group". "I see this as an opportunity to be back in there and doing acquisitions," he added.
Trade buyers expected to take a keen interest in the company, which is valued in the £250m to £300m range, include GI Partners and Robert Tchenguiz, who owns Laurel and a stake in Regent Inns. Barracuda is an attractive acquisition proposition because of strong earnings growth and a 60% freehold estate.
One irony of PPM Ventures exit from Barracuda is that it means the company will not be able to pursue any interest in SFI Group, whose Slug & Lettuce chain would make a useful addition to the company.
SFI has reported company Ebitda of £19.8m, representing an rise of 15%, in the financial year to 25 September, 2004.