At least five bids have been submitted for Kwik-Fit, the UK-based fast-repair chain of shops Ford is selling as part of its wider restructuring programme, according to the Financial Times (FT).

Citing sources close to the deal, the FT said that three bidders in the first round of the auction are UK-based private equity firms understood to be Cinven, CVC and Deutsche Bank's venture capital arm.

However, more bidders are expected to enter the auction, which has generated substantial interest, the FT said, adding that Kwik-Fit founder and chairman Sir Tom Farmer is not thought to be leading a bid for the company.

The FT said that some industry analysts had expected Farmer, who sold the business to Ford for £1billion ($US1.4 billion) in 1999, to co-ordinate a buy-back for a considerably smaller figure.

According to the newspaper, Ford last month said three Kwik-Fit board members, including Farmer, were taking "a leave of absence" pending disposal of the business, after potential bidders raised concerns over whether he would bid for the chain.

The FT said that Ford appointed Goldman Sachs to explore options for the business, including a sale, in December.

Ford hopes to raise about $1 billion although industry analysts believe it is worth no more than $800 million, the newspaper added.