NEWCASTLE UNITED officials have expressed ‘deep scepticism’ about reports linking Turkish businessman Murat Ulker with an imminent £220m bid for the Magpies.

Ulker, who is the chairman of Turkish food giants Yildiz Holdings, who own the likes of Penguins, Jaffa Cakes and McVitie’s, is the richest man in Turkey, with an estimated wealth of around £3bn.

He is looking to spread his investment portfolio into new areas, and his British representative, Tom McLoughlin, was quoted in the Evening Standard crediting him with a strong interest in Newcastle.

Mike Ashley issued a statement on Monday evening confirming his desire to sell his 100 per cent stake in the club, and McLoughlin claims Ulker is keen to push through a deal.

“The Ulker family have substantial assets and significant investments already in the UK,” he said. “We understand football, and our initial specific target would be to make Newcastle a solid top-six club and a permanent feature in Europe, with a popular local and worldwide following.”

His comments have been contradicted by subsequent statements in Turkey, however, and Yildiz Holdings are not one of the groups to have signed non-disclosure agreements with Newcastle in the last few weeks.

Indeed, senior officials are understood to be completely unaware of any interest from Ulker or his business associates, casting major doubt on the veracity of yesterday’s reports linking him with the Magpies. Ulker has not spoken with senior Newcastle officials, or the law company handling the sale of the club.

A St James’ Park source claimed to be “extremely sceptical” of the alleged interest, with the groups who are currently involved in discussions with the Newcastle hierarchy remaining keen to shun public exposure until they are in a position to make a formal move.

One of the motives behind Ashley’s public comments on Monday evening was an attempt to flush out any potential interest, with the Sport Direct owner keen to complete a sale before the end of the year. However, by publicly inviting offers, he has created an environment where a range of figures could opt to link themselves with Newcastle in an attempt to attract attention.

There is firm interest from at least three Chinese consortiums, although none are yet at a position where they are willing to make a formal offer, with Ashley continuing to value Newcastle at around £400m.

Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners group remain keen to buy a Premier League club, although they have also looked closely at Liverpool and Tottenham in recent weeks, having made two unsuccessful attempts to take over at Anfield in the past.