It has emerged that Whitbread’s investor relations team admitted last month’s demerger announcement could trigger bids for Costa.

It has been widely speculated that the plan to spin off Costa into a separate listed entity could give rise to approaches.

In a research note, Vicki Stern, a leisure analyst at Barclays, said that at the post-results investor roadshow Whitbread’s investor relations team had accepted this fact.

According to the Times, Ms Stern said: “The investor relations team acknowledged that given the demerger announcement, the likelihood of an approach for either Costa or Premier Inn probably increased and stated that the board would need to consider any very credible offers (though the current view is that the best way to create value is to demerge).”

The announcement that Whitbread would pursue a demerger of Costa within the next two years was sparked by two activist investors, Sachem Head and Elliott Advisors, who together speak for about 10% of the shares.

Announcing the plans last month, Whitbread chief executive Alison Brittain said: “At the point of separation, both businesses will be able to take advantage of the structural growth opportunities available to them in the UK and internationally. Costa will become a listed entity in its own right and the clear market leader in the out-of-home coffee market in the UK. Costa will also be well positioned to build further on its strong international foundations with growth expected in China and Costa Express.

“Whitbread will remain the owner and operator of the UK’s most successful hotel business. A key priority will be continuing the development of Premier Inn by creating a business of scale in Germany to replicate the success we have in the UK.”