The battle to take over the Premier Lodge budget hotel chain is hotting up as the two final bidders race to sign contracts.
Leisure company Whitbread and venture capitalist Apax are understood to be the final two parties involved after hotel company De Vere Group confirmed that its bid hadn't made it to the final stages.
The process was complicated when Spirit Group, which owns the 132-strong chain, added more properties to the portfolio.
A decision is expected in the next three weeks. Insiders close to the auction said the first company to complete all due diligence on the new properties and sign on the dotted line would win the deal. Both groups are understood to have bid between £500m and £550m for the chain.