Two contenders have been shortlisted in the race to buy contract caterer Initial's conference division after the De Vere hotel group pulled out last week.
Initial's owner, the troubled hygiene and pest control group Rentokil, has put Style Conference division up for sale for more than £300m.
The withdrawal of De Vere from the bidding process leaves the way open for an auction between the two remaining parties - private investors Lazard Private Equity and Patron Capital, according to mergermarket.
A deal is expected to be completed by the end of the year but the news comes amid poor third-quarter results for parent company Rentokil Initial.
Despite revenue increasing by 6.6% from £529.8m to £564.8m (at current rates of exchange) pre-tax profit fell 21% from £67.7m to £53.3m at the group.
Rentokil chief executive Doug Flynn said there were signs of a slowdown in profit deterioration, and he forecast an improvement in the company's fortunes as the turnaround plans recently put in place begin to take effect.
By Emily Manson
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