Pub operator Spirit has confirmed that it has identified around 350 pubs it could sell off, in a move that could be a precursor to an expected stock market flotation next year.
Late last month the company downplayed the idea it might be poised to sell off part of its 2,400-strong estate before coming to market.
But today, while stressing that no decision had been made on whether the pubs would be sold or remain within the business, it confirmed it had identified some 350 pubs that were no longer core to the business and so could be disposed of, should the need arise.
A spokeswoman said the move was the result of a routine review of the estate, which Spirit bought from Scottish & Newcastle Retail last year.
The company conceded it was working closely with Deutsche Bank on a number of issues but would not confirm reports that it had appointed the investment bank to advise it on the sale.
City speculation is pointing to Punch, Enterprise Inns and Wolverhampton & Dudley as possible buyers for all or some of pubs.
It is believed a stock market flotation, were it to happen, could raise as much as £200m for the company.
by Nic Paton
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