Kier Group was this week understood to be the frontrunner in the race to buy Scottish construction group Barr Holdings.

Kier was unavailable for comment, but is thought to be ahead of other parties interested in buying the £147m-turnover Paisley company.

A spokesperson for Barr also declined to comment on Kier's involvement, and would only say that a strategic review of the business was in progress and no decision had yet been made.

Barr put itself up for sale at the end of last year after pre-tax profit for the year to 31 March 2005 dropped two-thirds to £1.24m.

The company is best known in Scotland for its construction of football stadiums, including Celtic Park, but it has work in other sectors and has built more than 100 stores for Tesco.

The business is run by chairman Bernard Solomons and deputy chairman Tony Rush.

It was founded in 1969 by Bill Barr, who still owns 66% of shares with his two brothers.

The company employs about 900 people and works in waste management and quarrying as well as construction. Recent construction wins include a residential care home for Edinburgh council and a leisure centre and library in Penicuik for Midlothian council.