The popular Bixi bike-share service may soon be sold off to a British multi-national company.

The Montreal-based Public Bike System Co. says the British company Secro is looking at buying the entire rental service, including its patent.

"It would very sad to see but, from an economic point of view, but they’re probably the most motivated potential buyer," said Roger Plamondon, Bixi’s head of operations.

Originally developed by Montreal's quasi-public parking authority, Bixi launched in 2009 with 3,000 bikes and 300 stations. 

Last year, Quebec ordered Bixi to sell off its international operations, which includes bike shares in the U.S., England and Australia.

The province’s auditor general found the City of Montreal had no authority to market and export the concept.

In 2011, the city had to bail out the not-for-profit when it ran into a $37-million deficit, which it blamed on the cost of getting the program up and running, and granted extra loan guarantees needed to export and develop the system abroad.

Toronto and London guaranteed similar loans to set up Bixi systems in their cities.

Montreal would get back that $37-million bail out if the service was sold, Plamondon said. But, the Bixi factory in the Saguenay and the call centre in Montreal would likely move elsewhere.

He said there will still be Bixis in Montreal, but they could be run by the Montreal's transit corporation.

A few groups of local investors have also expressed interest in buying Bixi’s international arm.

Plamondon said the city would likely make a decision on the sale in the next few months.