Laurel owner Robert Tchenguiz is rumoured to be in pole position to buy SFI Group's best assets for around £80m.
It is thought that his offer for SFI involves its best 120 sites with a group of around 30 sites with onerous leases being placed in administration. The £80m offer means that the consortium of banks and debt trading companies that own SFI are likely to get their money back the company has core debt of £66m and an overdraft facility of £10m.
However, the sale price would leave little money for SFI's original individual shareholders who own 12.5% of the company alongside management once sale costs have been met.
A source close to SFI said: "All options are still under review, including discussions on a refinancing with the company's banks."
The acquisition of SFI, which owns Slug & Lettuce and Litten Tree, would see Laurel running 440 high street pubs. If successful with SFI, Tchenguiz would have spent around £433m plus costs to create a high-street operator with estimated Ebitda of £65m per year post-synergies a blended multiple of just less than seven times earnings.
Other bidders for SFI include Caspar Gilroy, a private investor backed by Mellon HVB, the hedge fund arm of Mellon Bank, Ian Payne, who has backing from TDR Capital, and Alchemy.
SFI reached its year end on 28 May with positive like-forlikes. The company also opened its 61st Litten Tree in Carlisle last week.