BOSSES of a struggling south coast Peugeot and Mitsubishi dealer were this week hoping to find a buyer to rescue the business after they closed four branches.

The struggling Southgate Group has been in negotiations to put together a rescue package for its three Peugeot sites in Southampton, Winchester and Andover, The family-run company has called in corporate recovery specialists Begbies Traynor but has not yet appointed them as administrators.

Its Mitsubishi franchises in Romsey, Poole and Bridport and a joint Subaru and Peugeot site in Blandford, Dorset ceased trading last week with the loss of 43 jobs.

A further 60 jobs are at risk unless a deal can be done. It is understood a pre-pack administration sale being sought in discussions between the company, Peugeot, lenders and landlords.

But it could take weeks to put together. Southgate’s Peugeot sites are continuing to trade normally while Begbies Traynor have been examining the company’s affairs.

It is understood the would-be administrators have been surprised how well the company has been run.

But it has suffered from a general slowdown in car sales and the deepening economic gloom hitting consumer confidence.

A source said: “It’s becoming increasing difficult to make a buck in the car trade.”

The Southgate Group was set up in 1996, and is made up of three companies.

It employed 111 staff.

The £250,000 dealership in Southampton, on the corner of Winchester Road and Romsey Road, opened in 2006 with the creation of 40 jobs.

It recently underwent a rebranding along with the Winchester site.