WPP research arm Kantar is said to be in $4.8 billion management buyout talks

WPP's market research arm Kantar could be sold in a potential management buyout of the firm, according to reports.

Eric Salama, Kantar's chief executive, has been approaching banks and private equity firms, according to a report by British newspaper The Times.

Selling the business could raise about £3.5 billion ($4.8 billion), according to Liberum analyst Ian Whittaker, which "could be used to pay off the bulk of WPP's £4.5 billion net debt and/or return cash to shareholders."

WPP Chief Executive Sir Martin Sorrell stood down in mid-April following allegations of misconduct, which he denies, leading to speculation that the marketing group would be broken up.

The company posted better-than-expected earnings for its first quarter, with net sales down 0.1 percent like-for-like, beating estimates of a 1 percent drop, it said Monday.