Alternative asset fund management group Bridgepoint, which owns approximately 80% of Burger King‘s estate in the UK, is reportedly planning to divest the operations next year.

Britain’s Sky News has learnt that the group is engaged in initial talks with investment banks for auctioning the fast-food chain.

The news channel quoted a Bridgepoint spokesman as saying that the company has not appointed any advisers and is “simply exploring growth options for the (Burger King UK) business.”

According to insiders, the discussions may not lead to a sale process for another 12 months, but there is a possibility that the process could begin if sales continue to grow significantly.

Bridgepoint has held its stake in the Burger King UK estate since 2017.

In addition to the UK locations, Bridgepoint has some Burger King locations in France, Sky News noted.

Last July, Burger King warned that it could close up to 10% of its outlets in the UK, which would put hundreds of jobs at risk.

Burger King UK CEO Alasdair Murdoch said that closures due to the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to between 800 and 1,600 job cuts.

The chain operates around 530 restaurants and employs roughly 16,500 people in the UK.

In order to maintain restaurant sales during the lockdown, Burger King UK partnered with online food delivery companies such as Deliveroo, Just Eat and UberEats.

Burger King UK is reportedly planning to add more drive-thru outlets across the country as another way to maintain sales momentum. It has also acquired back some of its restaurants from franchisees in order to boost its profitability.

In May, Burger King reportedly opened its first delivery-only kitchen in London, UK.