Bupa has invited four prospective buyers to bid for its £1.2bn portfolio of 26 hospitals. Independent on Sunday

Citigroup, which is carrying out the sale, last week invited Blackstone, Cinven, CVC and another unidentified bidder to submit bids, with the aim of concluding a sale within weeks.

Barchester Healthcare, the private care homes group backed by JP McManus, John Magnier and Dermot Desmond, is also understood to be interested in the portfolio, but has not yet been approached.

Bupa’s chief executive, Val Gooding, is understood to want to use the proceeds of a sale to expand its insurance and care homes operations, and possibly to make acquisitions.