Deutsche Bahn is in exclusive talks with US private equity firm Carlyle over a £2.2 billion sale of the German rail operator’s Sunderland-based Arriva transport firm, according to reports.
However, Deutsche Bahn is also still preparing for a potential flotation of Arriva.
Arriva, which employs 53,000 people across Europe, runs rail franchises including Northern and the London Overground as well as buses around the UK.
A Deutsche Bahn spokeswoman said: “We have always made it clear that we are working on a dual-track process for DB Arriva.
“In concrete terms, this means a sale to an investor or an IPO.”
Any deal is unlikely to include the Northern Rail contract.
A number of other parties have been linked with a possible offer for Arriva, including Apollo Global Management.
Transport groups including Stagecoach are thought to be interested only in acquiring parts of Arriva.