John Caudwell - the billionaire boss of Phones4U - yesterday predicted the business empire he founded nearly 20 years ago could be sold by the middle of the year.
The Midland entrepreneur said he was weighing up a number of expressions of interest in the wider Caudwell Group after putting it up for sale in November, and hoped to secure a deal in the next few months.
This would allow him to fulfil his ambition of sailing around the world - although he insisted it was still business as usual for now.
Mr Caudwell said all the parties now involved in the sale process were private equity firms.
Although trade buyers had expressed interest, they were turned down as he believed a private equity owner was more likely to keep the group intact, safeguarding jobs.
"There's been quite a bit of trade interest, but we have restricted the process to private equity bidders. We have got some very high quality private equity bidders," he said.
He did not name any of the suitors but said the sale process had progressed to the second round after a pre-selection of the initial list.
Larger rival Carphone Warehouse has already said it is not interested in buying the business.
"We would expect probably within the next six months to have a very serious sale offer that probably goes to completion," Mr Caudwell added.
The business tycoon, who set up the company with his brother in 1987 when mobile phones were virtually unheard of, said he would probably move into another venture after the sale.
He said: "I'm sure there will be things that come along that interest me. My lifelong ambition is to sail around the world.
But to be honest at the moment it's just business as normal."
It came as the private company revealed profits outstripped forecasts in the year to December 31 after a strong Christmas driven by demand for the latest handsets.
Group sales rose 15 per cent to £2.12 billion, while earnings before interest, tax and goodwill came in at £149 million - well ahead of the £115 million predicted by the firm.
Mr Caudwell said the group's focus on the 16-30 age group meant it saw strong demand for 3G mobile phones, since many of its customers were "early adopters" of technology.
He said: "I believe Phones4U is attracting younger and more technology-savvy customers than any other high street mobile phone retailer in the country."
Mr Caudwell first disclosed in November that he was inviting offers for the Caudwell Group, which also includes mobile repairs and distribution businesses.
The sale will not include fixed-line telecoms arm Caudwell Communications, although that could be offloaded at a later date.
He said at the time that he had received a number of approaches from potential suitors.
Phones4U expects to add another 100 stores to its network of 353 sites across the UK over the next two years. More than 8,500 staff are employed across the group. ..SUPL: