Possible outcome might be break up of group
GUS is said to have attracted the interest of a consortium of private equity firms and global banks that are willing to table an astonishing£11 billion bid.

It is claimed that the consortium is prepared to offer£11 a share, then break up the conglomerate, spinning off Argos Retail Group, which consists of Argos and Homebase, and GUS's financial services arm Experian.

The consortium would also offload GUS's 66 per cent stake in Burberry. It is likely that ARG would be floated on the London Stock Exchange and Experian would be listed in the US.

The strategy mirrors the one that many investors believe GUS will settle on at the end of its strategic review. However, the consortium believes investors would be keen to get out at a premium now and that it would still reap benefits from its stakes in the standalone companies.

According to one source Active Retail Capital, set up earlier this year by former GUS Home Shopping chief executive Alan Taylor, is advising the consortium.

CharlesStanleyanalyst Simon Proctor said: 'It would be audacious given the finance that would have to be raised and the magnitude of the task.'

A spokeswoman said that GUSwouldnotcomment on speculation.