The Laurel Pub Company and Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries have made the shortlist for the Wizard Inns sale.
An industry source confirmed that Laurel had made a £90m bid for Wizard, which has 64 high-street pubs. "We believe there is one other party in the deal and that it is Wolverhampton & Dudley," said the source. The deal is expected to be completed within three weeks.
Laurel recently put its 432-strong neighbourhood pub portfolio up for sale, signalling its intent to launch an attack on Britain's high streets, where it already runs 177 pubs and the Hogshead chain.
An information pack has been sent to 20 potential bidders thought to be interested in its neighbourhood portfolio, and Laurel will be pressing for a one-off sale close to the £450m mark.