Multinational hospitality titan Whitbread may be open to selling off either Costa Coffee or hotel chain Premier Inn as it decides on plans to demerge its coffee business.
Back in April, the company told investors it had plans to demerge Costa into a separate listed company within two years to give shareholders "an investment in two distinct, focused and market-leading businesses."
Read more: Costa to be split from Whitbread
But a remuneration policy published on the company's website suggests FTSE 100 Whitbread is open to a different option – the sale of either Costa or Premier Inn to a separate company.
The policy told shareholders that if a deal was reached they would be rewarded: "whether that is by way of demerger or by way of the sale to a third party of all or substantially all of one or other of those businesses".
This contrasts to the April announcement which only discussed a Costa demerger.
In response, Whitbread said it was firmly focused on splitting Costa from Whitbread rather than a sale of its coffee or hotel chain arms.
"The whole purpose of the proposed scheme, as shareholders will read, is to focus management on delivering the de-merger," a Whitbread spokesperson said.
"Theoretically, under the scheme, management could be incentivised to reject an offer at a significant premium for either part of the business – hence this caveat in the wording.
"There is no sale process for either Costa or Premier Inn – demerging into two independent companies remains the strategic objective."
A sale of either Costa or Premier Inn would ruffle feathers at hedge fund Elliott, Whitbread's biggest shareholder.
The fund has previously said a Costa demerger should go through within six months, quicker than the two-year plan Whitbread has in mind.