After months of speculation, Mace chief executive Bob White admitted this week that the construction manager is in merger talks.

”We are in discussions about a merger,” White said. But he refused to reveal the identity of the other party.

Speculation in the City and among those in the industry has thrown up several names.

One tipster said Citex was the other company. Mace and Citex have formed a joint venture to bid for Project Jaguar, BT’s £160m-a-year property outsourcing contract.

Steve Lee, who heads Citex’s London office, said: “We are aware of the rumours and we are looking for acquisitions.” Lee added: “We are potentially a good fit, but I cannot confirm that we are talking to Mace.”

Other names that have been suggested include US project manager O’Brien Kreitzberg and Bovis. Neither wished to comment.

Earlier this year, French company Scic Development was rumoured to be in talks with Mace after it formed a joint venture with the construction manager.

The company is known to be keen to develop itself into a “one-stop shop” for clients, and it is understood to be looking for a partner that can bring financial backing to the partnership to enable it to fund further projects.

Former Mace chief executive Ian Macpherson is thought to be looking for a buyer for his shares in the company. When he retired in March, he sold one-third of his 51% stake to the firm’s Employment Benefit Trust. It is understood that he now wants to sell the rest.

Mace has been awarded a 12-week contract to manage preliminary work at the £350m redevelopment of Paternoster Square in the City of London.

Work on the much-delayed redevelopment is scheduled to start in early 2000, subject to at least one major pre-let being agreed.