Independently-owned Community Hospitals Group (CHG), which was subject to a £230m blocked take-over bid from Bupa last year, is seeking new buyers.

Merchant bank Schroder Saloman Smith Barney (SSSB) currently holds a 27% stake in the company on behalf of Bupa.

SSSB is required to divest this share block within six months, after trade secretary Stephen Byers vetoed the potential sale in December 2000.

Alan Pilgrim, CHG's chief executive, said: “We have been in discussions with SSSB regarding various options for the future of that stock, one of which is the sale of the company.”

Pilgrim said other options being considered included a share buy back and/or a placement of shares.

But he said it was too early to declare when any share transfer would take place. He would not be drawn on the likely outcome of the discussions with SSSB.

“The board will clearly be focusing on what is in the best interests of our shareholders,” Pilgrim said.

Stephen Byers had decided that Bupa's proposed £230m acquisition of the group would not be in the public interest.

Any sale of the shares is likely to be for less than the 650p Bupa offered in its bid.