Hawthorn Leisure, the pub group backed by May Capital, is believed to have entered exclusive talks to acquire Nectar Taverns, which operates 25 wet-led freehouses in the North West, M&C Report understands.

It is thought the Gerry Carroll-led group has come out on top of a shortlist of companies, a mixture of trade players and private equity groups, to lead the race to acquire the business, which was placed on the market with a price tag of c£10m.

Nectar, which was previously managed by Honeycombe Leisure and owned by private equity firm Beringea, is believed to have shown steady growth over recent years.

Colliers International was appointed this summer by the private owners of Nectar to seek a sale of the freehold group.

The company was previously run by Amber chairman Clive Preston and chief executive James Baer, who are also thought to have run the rule over the business.

Hawthorn was founded through the acquisition of 275 tenanted pubs from Greene King earlier in the year.

At the beginning of June, the Gerry Carroll-led group announced the acquisition of 88 tenanted and leased pubs from R&L, the pub portfolio formerly part of property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz’s property empire in a deal believed to be valued at c£30m.

It was also linked with the 111-strong pubs package, which was placed on the market by Heineken earlier this year and recently acquired by Cerberus.