Luke Johnson looked on the verge of success yesterday in his bid to take the Signature group of restaurants private, with reports giving him the backing of either just under or just over 50% of shareholders for his 60p-a-share offer.

However, some investors have not given unconditional backing to the offer, saying they will change their minds iif a better deal materialises, leaving a chance for Giuliano Lotto and his supporters to make a counter-bid.

Lotto and his associates in Park Place hold 29.6% of Signature, which owns The Ivy and Le Caprice, as well as the Belgo and Strada chains. Lotto, managing director of A to Z restaurants, said this month he had no intention of accepting Johnson's offer.

Park Place's last comment was that it was considering its options over a bid.