William Pears, the property investment group, has emerged as a surprise frontrunner in the £1.5bn bidding war for Land Securities Trillium, the outsourcing giant. Independent on Sunday

The previously untouted William Pears had made the four-strong shortlist for Trillium, a source close to the auction said. The shortlist was drawn up late last week after the submission of indicative bids on Monday. Other bidders include Macquarie, the Australian bank, and Apax, the buyout giant. There is dispute over the fourth bidder, with one source naming Cinven and another identifying Charterhouse Capital Partners.

Other private equity parties hope to crash the auction later. Candover mulled a bid, but its interest cooled as it struggled to price Trillium, a complex business.