Managers at BWG Holdings, owner of the Spar and Mace franchises, are understood to have made an approach to buy the 65% share of the business put on the market by private equity group Electra Partners.

The group's chief executive, Leo Crawford, and a number of senior managers already control 15% of the company. According to reports, they have been in touch with venture capitalists in a bid to win financial backing for a buyout.

It is understood that IBI Corporate Finance, which is handling the sale of the 65% stake - expected to fetch €400m (£270m) - has also received expressions of interest from a number of private equity players in Ireland, Britain and Europe.

Another interested party is Irish businessman John Clohisey, who owns 20% of BWG and a number of Spar outlets. He is believed to have pre-emption rights on Electra's stake and is said to be examining his options.

In 2002 when it acquired its stake through a management buyout of BWG from Pernod Ricard, Electra also bought out Clohisey's Newhill operation, which owned 115 Spar outlets. He received €45m (£30.3m) and a stake in the new group.

It is not known at this stage if Clohisey and Crawford are willing to team up for a joint bid. But market sources feel that a management buyout, backed by a private equity fund, would be the most likely outcome.