The NEC Group is planning to give away Symphony Hall because the world-acclaimed Birmingham concert auditorium no longer fits in with its business objectives.
NEC bosses are mid-way through negotiations that are likely to see the management of Symphony Hall handed to Birmingham City Council, to be run as a charitable trust in conjunction with the refurbished Birmingham Town Hall.
The move follows a pledge to move the NEC Group into profit after 30 years of losses, although board members deny that disposing of Symphony Hall is in any way connected with cost cutting.
The NEC Group, which includes the National Exhibition Centre, the ICC and National Indoor Arena, regis-tered an #8 million loss during 2004/05 - due largely to the cost of repaying loans taken out to construct the buildings.
The ICC, which includes Symphony Hall - home to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra - made an operating loss of #104,000. Running costs for Symphony Hall were #2 million, which included a #543,000 contribution from Birmingham City Council.
The NEC Group refuses to specify the annual deficit for Symphony Hall.
If the de-merger goes ahead, the NEC Group will lose control of Symphony Hall but retain the ICC, NIA and the National Exhibition Centre - the core of its conference business.
An NEC spokeswoman said: "The NEC Group and Birmingham City Council are discussing in principle the separation of Symphony Hall from the rest of the group.
"This is due to the commercial focus of the NEC Group differing from the charitable objectives of Symphony Hall.
"These discussions are in the early stages and are likely to take a number of months to conclude. More details will be made available once a decision has been reached."
Although the land on which the NEC Group buildings stand and the buildings themselves are owned by Birmingham City Council, management and running costs are in the hands of the NEC.
Symphony Hall and the ICC, which cost #180 million to build, opened in 1991.
With 2,200 seats and specially-designed acoustics, it has been acclaimed as one of the world's best concert halls.
John Alden, Birmingham cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture and an NEC director, said the de-merger would help boost Symphony Hall because the building could be run solely as a charitable trust.
"It will make it easier for fundraising by people who support the arts," he added.