British cinema chain Odeon has hired investment banks Morgan Stanley and Tricorn Partners to evaluate offers for the business, according to wire and newspaper reports on Wednesday (17 Dec)

London's Financial Times and Reuters reported that Odeon, partly owned by German bank WestLB, has received several bid approaches, including one from Iranian property investor Robert Tchenguiz, who is already a shareholder of the firm.

London & Regional, a property group, is also said to have expressed interest, while Vue, formerly the Warner Village chain of cinemas, is also named as a possible bidder.

WestLB's Principal Finance Group, headed by American banker Robin Saunders, engineered the £431m buyout of Odeon in March from private equity firm Cinven. UK distributor Entertainment Group and Tchenguiz were both involved in the deal, each contributing £65m of equity in Odeon.

According to Reuters, WestLB's buyout of Odeon has been criticised by some financiers, who say WestLB overpaid for the business.

Investment banks valued the business at under £400m in the summer, but Reuters reported that some banking sources believe the valuation could have slipped thanks to a slump in cinema takings this year.

Sources said the sale of Odeon could interest private equity firms if the shareholders agree to sell at a reduced price, and at a level where a refinancing of Odeon debt, due in March, is viable.