Sandwich chain Pret A Manger has confirmed it is being courted by a number of private equity firms since revealing plans to float the company to fuel expansion in the USA.

Simon Hargraves, commercial director, said: "The shareholders have not ruled anything out at the moment. People are putting other deals on the table, but they are still working towards an IPO (initial public offering) later this year."

On the prowl are thought to be Lion Capital, Bridgepoint and PPM, all of which have a track record in buying and selling food firms. Lion was involved in the bidding war for Cadbury’s Soft Drinks and Brakes, while Bridgepoint, a joint owner with PPM of Lyons Seafoods, also owns a stake in ethnic brands producer WT Foods.

Pret, which was expected to be valued at more than £300 million, has 150 stores, including 12 in New York.

Hargraves said: "We struggled in New York, but over the last three years we have tailored the offering to the US market while still keeping the integrity of the Pret brand. We are now in double-digit growth and the potential has expanded dramatically - hence the need to finance quite a rapid expansion plan. We are looking for 40 stores in Manhattan, then perhaps moving towards Boston and Washington."