Starwood Capital, the US private equity firm set up by the founder of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, is rumoured to be eyeing a takeover of Whitbread.
Premier Travel Inn, the UK's largest budget hotel chain, was seen as the key attraction after Starwood Capital moved into the European budget market last year with the acquisition of French budget chain Société du Louvre.
However, analysts believe that Starwood would buy Whitbread in its entirety, pushing the bill up to about £3b.
"Whitbread is backed by strong freehold assets, occupies an attractive niche market, and one could argue that it is relatively under-geared," said one City analyst.
He added that Starwood had lost the chance to buy the De Vere hotel group to Alternative Hotel Group earlier this month, and would thus have "a bit of cash swilling around".
Whitbread's estate also includes Pizza Hut and TGI Friday's, Costa Coffee and David Lloyd Leisure health and fitness clubs