Bidders in the race to buy Compass Group's travel concession business SSP have been cut to a shortlist of six.
Italian roadside operator Autogrill and French caterer Elior are believed to be the only two trade buyers still in the frame.
Little Chef owners Simon Heath and Lawrence Wosskow failed to make the cut.
Initial offers were submitted last month and it is believed some came in over the £1b asking price, with Autogrill reportedly tabling a £1.4b offer.
Private equity groups linked to the deal include Gate Gourmet owner Texas Pacific, Blackstone and Terra Firma, the investment vehicle of hotelier Guy Hands.
Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein analyst Karl Green said a trade sale would have obvious benefits in terms of synergies, but a private equity deal would allow the buyer to take a longer-term view of the business.
He added that the sale would be a massive boost to Compass. "I imagine roughly 25% will be returned to shareholders, while the rest will be used to cover debt and plug the pension fund hole."
By tom Bill
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