Struggling Bank Restaurant Group has confirmed it is in advanced negotiations with another group.
The potential target appears to be Conran's Zinc Bar and Grill, which may be supported by the fact that Des Gunewardena, chief executive of Conran Holdings for the past 10 years, has also joined Bank as a non-executive director.
Zinc is a chain of six restaurants including two venues in London and branches in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Birmingham.
Bank also drafted in entrepreneur Robert Breare as executive chairman to spearhead a new strategy of growth through acquisition and is in advanced talks for its first purchase.
Conran bought a 24.9% stake in Bank in 2003 and, although it declined an option to take over Bank, has continued to provide sales and marketing support.
Bank has struggled since buying its three restaurants (in Birmingham and in London's Aldwych and Westminster) from Bank Group Restaurants for £11m in late 2000 to allow then-chairman Tony Allan to focus on his Fish! brand.
Bank has been seeking ways to raise funds or merge with other groups (including Living Ventures) since last year.
It believes its new acquisition strategy will allow it to reach critical mass, improve margins, secure stronger covenants and spread the risks, costs and profits across a broader spread of business
"Bank's market capitalisation is £1.5m. We need to be several multiples higher," explained Breare, who is also chairman of the Noble House Leisure group of branded bars and restaurants
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