Punch Taverns has denied speculation linking it to a takeover bid for Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) after the rival operator admitted that a number of parties had expressed an interest in buying the company.
M&B confirmed late last night that it had received "preliminary and tentative" expressions of interest in the company from a number of parties.
Punch has long been touted as a potential acquirer for M&B but, in a briefing with analysts about the performance of its Spirit business, the group said while it was watching the M&B situation "with interest" it had not made a bid.
M&B has been vulnerable to a takeover following this week's revelation that it made a £274m post-tax loss from the closure of its controversial hedge fund.
However, the pub group stressed said there had not yet been any discussions and there could be no certainty that any would take place.
"At this preliminary stage, there can be no assurance that any offer for the company will be forthcoming," it said in a statement.
Meanwhile touted buyer Robert Tchenguiz has upped his total holdings in M&B to 23.1%.
By Christopher Walton
E-mail your comments to Christopher Walton here.