Low-cost airline Flybe - which operates a number of services from Birmingham International Airport - is thought to be eyeing a flotation late next year or in 2007 that could value the firm at up to £200 million.
According to reports yesterday, Flybe has appointed a financial adviser to examine its options and managers are thought to favour a stock market listing over a private sale.
The no-frills service has bases in Birmingham, Exeter and Southampton. It is 81 per cent owned by Rosedale (JW) Investments - one of the family trusts established to oversee the estate of Jack Walker, the former steel magnate and owner of Blackburn Rovers football club.
By focussing on regional airports, Flybe is trying to head off competition from low cost carriers such as easyJet and Ryanair which dominate the London short-haul market to the continent.
The company flies to and from around 40 airports - with almost half in main-land Europe. However, its most regular services link UK bases, including Belfast, Edinburgh, Jersey and Norwich.
It is thought chairman and chief executive Jim French, who owns a nine per cent stake in Flybe, may seek to appoint three or four independent directors to reform the firm's corporate governance in readiness for the float.
The company is expected to post its first operating profit in five years in March.