Northern Ireland wholesaler and symbol operator J&J Haslett could be on the verge of selling up after receiving two approaches from companies looking to buy the business.
The group, which operates the Mace symbol in the province, is believed to be the target of companies on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Industry sources in England and Belfast have suggested P&H is one bidder. P&H would be a natural fit as it runs the Mace symbol in Britain and only has a small presence in Northern Ireland, where it operates 78 stores under the Your Store and Supershop fasicas. P&H would not comment.
The Irish bidder could be either BWG or the Musgrave Group, which owns MBL in the UK. Hasletts was previously owned by BWG before a management buy-out in 2003. The management of BWG completed their own buy-out from private equity owner Electra Partners last October.
Peter Kealy, now MD of BWG, previously held the same role at Hasletts. BWG operates both the Spar and Mace symbols in the Republic of Ireland and like P&H could benefit from combining operations on either side of the border.
Musgrave would view the acquisition of Hasletts as a chance to compete more effectively north of the border with the market-leading Henderson Group. As well as 54 company-owned stores, Hendersons supplies 400 Spar and Vivo retailers. Musgrave's Northern Irish business MSVC supplies 140 stores while Hasletts supplies 165.
One Northern Irish retail expert said Musgrave would be the most likely bidder.
Haslett has sent a letter out to retailers telling them of the approaches but would not identify the parties. Musgrave refused to comment.
"It is really too early to say anything," said J&J Haslett delivered business director Tom Uprichard. "We have had a couple of approaches but this may not even result in a sale and we have not as yet entered formal talks with anyone."