Barceló Hotels & Resorts, the Spanish hotel company, is in advanced talks to take over a clutch of some of Britain’s best-known provincial hotels, including the Lygon Arms, in the Cotswolds, and the Imperial, in Torquay. The Times

Barceló, a family-run company that until recently had a minority stake in First Choice Holidays, the tour operator, is understood to be the front-runner to take on a long-term lease to run the Paramount Group of Hotels.

Paramount is owned by Dawnay Shore Hotels, a joint venture between Dawnay Day and Shore Capital set up in 2004 to consolidate the provincial four-star market. It has since spent £328m buying 20 hotels and invested millions more on improvements.