Wolverhampton & Dudley is back on the takeover trail with a £46 million offer for Jennings Brothers, the firm which runs 128 pubs in northern England and brews a range of beers including its flagship Cumberland Ale.

The brewers said it was discussing a 430p a share offer for Jennings, adding that the deal would represent "an excellent geographic fit" with its existing business.

W&DB owns the Pitcher & Piano, Bostin' Locals and Service That Suits Me pub chains.

It also brews Banks's, Hanson's and Mansfield beers in Wolverhampton and Marston's Pedigree ale in Burton-on-Trent.

W&DB said it had already received an irrevocable undertaking from Frederic Robinson, Jennings' largest shareholder with a 24 per cent stake, to accept an offer of at least 360 pence per share.

However, any potential deal is subject to an examination of Jennings' books and shareholder approval.

W&DB, which closed the Mansfield brewery in Nottinghamshire following its acquisition of that business, said the continued operation of the Jennings brewery in Cockermouth, Cumbria, and the development of its business was "key", given the local appeal of the Jennings beer brands.

A spokesman said it was too early to talk about potential job losses, but that W&DB would safeguard the employment of as many of Jennings' 78 staff as possible.

Jennings has 55 of its leased and tenanted pubs in Cumbria, with 31 in other parts of the North-west and 42 in the North-east and Yorkshire.

Jennings chairman John Rudgard - former boss of Herefordshire cider company HP Bulmer - said the deal would help protect the company.

"We believe that, if final terms can be agreed, W&DB would provide a good home for Jennings," he added.

"Jennings' high quality pub business and strong brands represent an excellent geographic fit with W&DB's existing operations. The deal would protect and develop Jennings' heritage within a far larger and stronger group."

Wolverhampton & Dudley has expanded rapidly since March last year when it completed a £150 million refinancing to give it a war chest for buying pubs.

W&DB chief executive Ralph Findlay said the proposed acquisition was in line with its strategy to develop organically and through selective acquisitions.

"Jennings is an excellent regional business with a strong heritage," he said.

"We believe our proposals will assist in the further development of the business and provide good opportunities for its lessees, beer brands and for employees."

Analyst Nigel Parson of Williams de Broe said in a research note: "This should be viewed as a bolt-on acquisition that is in line with strategy, but our initial reaction to the price is that it is expensive."

He also sounded a note of caution over W&DB's commitment to the Jennings brewery.

"This anticipates local opposition to the proposed deal but reduces synergy opportunities from closing the operation," he said.

Following the announcement, shares in Jennings rose to 413.5p. However, W&DB shares remained flat at 1,131p, valuing the group at £867 million. Jennings closed up 881/2p at 4311/2p while W&DB closed up 11p at 1141p.