British Airways yesterday said it was continuing to review its ownership of Air Miles amid speculation that the long-running loyalty scheme could be sold.
Private equity group European Capital has emerged as a possible buyer for £25 million, although one report said that BA would also take £200 million of cash out of the company and provide a supply of flights in return.
The possible disposal comes as BA prepares to make a payment of £500 million to tackle its pension scheme deficit, which a report said had doubled since its last actuarial valuation three years ago to £1.8 billion.
New BA chief executive Willie Walsh is also said to have received offers for BA Connect, its regional airline that flies from Birmingham and Manchester, and could also cash in on the company's interest in the Airline Group, which holds a 42 per cent stake in National Air Traffic Services. BA said no decision had been made about its ownership of Air Miles, which it acquired in the 1990s following the venture's launch in 1988.
Sir Keith Mills, who founded Air Miles and is deputy chairman of the organising committee for the 2012 Olympics, had been thought to be among initial bidders. However, his involvement drew objections from some retailers because his company is behind the Nectar loyalty programme, which launched in 2002.
Other bidders are said to have included the private equity groups 3i, Hg Capital and Palamon Capital.