Japanese-style noodle bar chain Wagamama is in advanced talks with an investment banking firm over a possible £60m buyout.
Financier Hutton Collins is believed to have emerged as the front-runner in Wagamama's long-running discussions with a number of venture capital firms.
The chain, led by chief executive Ian Neill, has been pursuing a twin-track strategy - preparing for a flotation on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market but at the same time testing the market to see if there might be any interest in the chain.
For the time being, the £50m flotation has been put on hold until it is clear whether a deal will be struck.
Hutton Collins has some track record in the hospitality sector. It was, for instance, involved in last year's acquisition of PizzaExpress by TDR Capital and Capricorn Ventures International.
Wagamama has 24 restaurants and plans to open 10 more this year. Should it end up going down the flotation route, Neill has said the money raised will be used for further expansion.
Full-year figures due out shortly are expected to show an increase in turnover to about £33m, from £25.3m, with earnings also growing significantly.
by Nic Paton
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