The field for the c340-strong Pizza Hut restaurant estate remains open with no party believed to be in exclusivity for the business, which was placed on the market by owner Yum! Brands last year. Leeds-based turnaround specialist Endless was reported to have been in exclusive talks for the business, but M&C Report understands that this is no longer the case and that talks are progressing with a number of parties interested in acquiring the group. It is thought that although the c320-strong takeaway side of the business is not on the market, a number of parties have placed bids that have included it with the dine-out estate. However, Yum! wants to keep hold of the more profitable delivery side of the business. Risk Capital Partners, the Luke Johnson-led investment vehicle, and Rutland Partners were believed to have been two of the groups to have reached the final round of bidding. As revealed by M&C Report in May, the suitors for Pizza Hut UK’s restaurant business were whittled down to three after up to 35 private equity parties, including Sun European Partners, the backer of Atmosphere Bars & Clubs, and RCapital, the owner of Little Chef, were thought to have originally shown an interest in the group. It is thought one of the key points of the deal will be the level of the annual royalty fee due to Yum! going forward. It has been suggested that the group might have to undergo some sort of restructure/pre-pack administration as part of the process. The group is reportedly looking for a buyer with a clear strategy to exit loss-making leases, of which there are believed to be a round 100, and to “invest in a modernisation programme and generate strong ongoing royalties”. It is understood that the majority of the current management team led by Jens Hofma is keen to stay with the business to continue oversee its turnaround. The group reported a decline in sales for the 12 months to 4 December 2011, despite seeing an uplift in performance on the back of increased investment in service levels in the second half of the year.