Cross-Channel ferry operator SeaFrance could be taken over by Brittany Ferries through a new holding company after negotiations with LD Lines broke down.
If successful, it would acquire four or five of SeaFrance's vessels, which would continue in service sailing to Calais from the Kent port of Dover.
SeaFrance recently announced it could be axing up to 650 French jobs.
Brittany Ferries already operates five routes to France from Portsmouth, Poole and Plymouth and two to Spain.
It employs 2,500 staff, including 320 UK-based employees.
David Longden, managing director, said: "After 37 years of experience on the longer routes to France and Spain, this is an exciting opportunity to introduce Brittany Ferries' award-winning standards on Dover-Calais crossings, and to provide an even greater choice for our passengers and freight customers."
LD Lines, the newest ferry company operating between Dover and Boulogne and Dieppe, had been planning to make a formal bid for SeaFrance.
However, it revealed it had withdrawn its acquisition offer of a majority stake in SeaFrance, amid apparent union opposition.
SeaFrance's parent company SNCF declined to comment on Wednesday.