EasyGroup, which operates nine Internet cafes in the UK, has expressed an interest in buying Coffee Republic.

The latter coffee group is already believed to have received an approach by an unnamed third party, and is in merger talks with sandwich shop chain Benjys. Rival coffee shop operator Caffe Nero is also keeping speculation buzzing by accumulating a 10.7% stake in Coffee Republic.

Easy Group is keen to expand by creating a franchise model based on smaller 100-seater outlets, and said it is Coffee Republic's retail premises that are the main focus of its attention.