As Building went to press, Sir Tom Hunter was thought to be preparing a £2bn bid for Wilson Bowden, which would be his third offer for a UK housebuilder in four months.

Rival housebuilders Barratt and George Wimpey were also expected to bid for the company.

Two weeks ago, Hunter, who is Scotland’s richest man, gained the support of the board of Crest Nicholson for a £713m offer for that housebuilder. In September, he bought retirement home specialist McCarthy & Stone for £1.1bn.

Both acquisitions were backed by bank HBOS, which is also thought to be supporting Hunter’s Wilson Bowden bid.

Hunter is the analysts’ favourite in the race to acquire the housebuilder after a recent flurry of private equity investment in the housebuilding sector.

Were Barratt or Wimpey to prove successful in the takeover battle, however, they would become the UK’s biggest housebuilder, ahead of current leader and FTSE 100 company Persimmon.

It first emerged last July that David Wilson, chairman of Wilson Bowden, was reviewing his majority stake in the company.

Wilson Bowden’s share price was £23.08 as Building went to press on Wednesday, valuing the company at £2.2bn.