Cadbury Schweppes has received a E1.85bn (£1.27bn) bid for its European beverages business, which includes the brands Schweppes, Orangina, TriNa, Oasis and La Casera.

The bid has been made by a consortium including private equity groups Blackstone Group International and Lion Capital.

The deal, which is expected to be completed by early 2006, beat analysts’ expectations of £1-2bn.

Although Cadbury said that proceeds from the sale would be used to reduce the group’s net debt, which at June 2005 was £4.3bn, analysts speculated that the group could use the proceeds to make small and medium-sized acquisitions in the confectionery arena.

Todd Stitzer, cheif executive officer of Cadbury Schweppes, said: "I'm delighted that within such a short time we have received a firm offer for Europe Beverages at a price which reflects the quality of its brands and the strength of its management team."

"Following completion of a deal, we will be able to focus on our faster growing confectionery and other beverage businesses," he added.

Lyndon Lea, founding partner of Lion Capital, said: “It will be a stand-alone business run 50-50 by Lion and Blackstone. These brands are pretty extraordinary in their markets, these are household names.”