Laurel Pub Company could put between 50 and 100 pubs in its 460-strong estate into administration.
The Slug and Lettuce owner is believed to be looking at a pre-packaged administration of 50 to 100 of its loss making high-street leaseholds that have suffered a sharp fall in trade since November as the credit crunch and smoking ban hit home.
It is understood that Laurel is looking to avoid administration by selling the portfolio of pubs, either as a group or in smaller packages.
Laurel owned by property tycoon and Mitchells & Butlers investor Robert Tchenguiz through his investment vehicle R20. It comprises of approximately 460 sites, the largest of which is the 114 Yates's, and it employs 9,500 staff.
In March 2005, it bought 98 of 150 pubs out of administration from former pub group SFI for £80m.
Mark Brumby, analyst at Blue Oar Securities, said that the company was attempting to refinance the debt on that deal, when it was believed that Laurel paid twice the next highest bid, but the banks were unsupportive of the company keeping its loss-making sites which had been on the market for sale for more than a year.
In May 2007 it bought high-street tapas chain La Tasca for a total £123m (including debt) leading to it dividing its business into a casual dining arm and a pubs and bars division each with approximately 230 units.
In November the casual dining arm of the company was linked with a stock market flotation, which a Laurel spokeswoman said was "fairly speculative".
By Christopher Walton
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