Four offers for £181m-turnover contractor due to be made by end of the day

Vinci has emerged as a candidate to buy £181m-turnover contractor Haymills, Building understands.

Four offers for the company are due to be tabled by the end of play today, including bids from three other contractors.

It is understood that interest from fellow French company Bouygues has cooled after Building revealed a deal was one option being weighed up by Haymills.

Two bids, including the one from Vinci, are understood to be the favoured route of the company as they would protect the most jobs. The remaining two are understood to be from social housing specialists interested in Haymills’ maintenance business only.

The sale process is being run by an administrator-elect and a final decision will be taken early next week.

Haymills, which employs 700 staff and specialises in the commercial and residential markets in London and East Anglia, was forced to look for outside investment after its lender RBS froze its bank account last month.

The size of Haymills’ debt was not disclosed but a company spokesperson said it was operating with a £3m cushion when RBS pulled the plug.

He said: “RBS moved the goalposts and knocked the wind out of us. It was in the same week that I read a five-page article in the Mail on Sunday about how it was helping small and medium-sized businesses. Don’t believe everything you read in the papers, clearly.”

It is understood that staff wages at Haymills are about a week in arrears and that many unpaid subcontractors have agreed to hold off filing winding-up petitions until there is a resolution. The spokesperson for the firm, which includes Cambridge university, the National Trust and the Ministry of Defence among its clients, said: “It’s been great how so many of our subcontractors have stood shoulder to shoulder with us throughout this.”

In the year to 31 March 2008, the company had £6.3m in cash, but the spokesperson said: “A lot can happen in a year”. He denied there was one problem job that had led to the company’s current financial difficulty; rather, it is understood contractual disagreements on several jobs contributed to its position.