Kwik Save is putting its availability woes behind it with Christmas imminent, according to The Grocer 33 shoppers - but the news comes as fresh speculation emerges surrounding the troubled chain's future.

A source close to Kwik Save said he believed a deal was in the offing between the company and a group of private investors, who have just injected £30m into the business.

In conjunction with the move, he said, changes at board level were taking place. The accuracy of the reports remained uncertain as The Grocer went to press, and the retailer itself flatly denied a deal was in the offing.

But analysts said if the chain were to be acquired by an investment group, one possible outcome would be its estate of 229 stores across the UK being broken up and sold off.

However, a spokesman for the chain rubbished this suggestion, telling us: "Kwik Save denies they are in any negotiations with any parties regarding the break-up of the business."

Kwik Save clinched a £30m refinancing package in October and recently bought a tranche of 45 Somerfield stores. But industry rumours suggested it was seeking to raise another £30m. One analyst said: "It would be a brave venture capitalist that would take Kwik Save on."

TNS figures show Kwik Save's market share has crashed from 1.6% a year ago to just 0.2%. But it appears Kwik Save has sorted out its availability crisis, news of which was broken by The Grocer in July. This week, our mystery shoppers visited three stores and attempted to buy the items on this week's The Grocer 33 list.

In all three cases, our shoppers reported evidence the retailer was tackling its availability problems.

And all three outlets were stocking a full range of goods. Previously some store managers had protested to us that their order lists had been restricted.

There were no out of stocks to report at the chain's Handforth store in Cheshire. Our shopper said the store appeared well stocked throughout.

Meanwhile, there was only one out-of-stock to report at Kwik Save's Gravesend store: standard eight packs of bacon. Our shopper said all other areas were not only well stocked but also attractively presented, particularly the beer and wine section.

She also spotted many special offers and promotional activity.

Kwik Save's Lee Green store in south east London put in the poorest performance in terms of availability.

Four of the items from our list were out of stock: Cathedral City mature Cheddar, Nestlé Shreddies, Coca-Cola 2-litre and Doritos corn chips.

However, that performance was substantially better than reported store stock levels earlier this year.

A survey in July by store marketing group Storecheck found average availability in tobacco was running at 38%. Availability in chillers was at 62%, frozen food was at 70% and bread fixture was at 63%.