The British government has given its blessing to the proposed takeover by Whitbread of Spirit Group’s Premier Lodge hotel chain.
The Office of Fair Trading in England said it had decided not to refer the hotel and pub group’s planned acquisition of Premier to the Competition Commission.
Whitbread is bidding against a number of rivals for Premier, which is owned by Burton-on-Trent-based pubs group Spirit.
US stockbroker Collins Stewart is also interested, while other potential bidders are thought to include De Vere Group and investment groups Apax Partners and Nomura.
The deadline for the next round of bidding for Premier, which is expected to attract bids of £500m (€739m) or more, is understood to be May 24.
Premier Lodge, consisting of 132 hotels and employing 5,000 staff, was put up for sale earlier this year by Spirit Group.
Spirit inherited it as part of its £2.5bn (€3.6bn) acquisition of Scottish & Newcastle Retail.
It is understood that Whitbread asked the OFT to look at whether there would be any obstacle to a potential takeover by the group of Premier.
Under a joint venture with Spirit, Whitbread currently runs and manages 11 Travel Inns at sites where Spirit pubs are also based.
Whitbread owns Travel Inn and Marriott Hotels as well as the Beefeater, Brewer’s Fayre and Brewsters pub chains and David Lloyd Leisure fitness clubs.