Shares in Birmingham-based pubs chain Mitchells & Butlers last night shot up 19 per cent after property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz revealed his interest in mounting a takeover offer for at least two of the leading M&B brands - thought to be All Bar One and Harvester.
Mr Tchenguiz's investment vehicle R20, which a lready has brands including Yates's and Hog's Head, issued a statement confirming that it had been in discussions with a number of other parties about forming a bid consortium.
The news pushed the market value of M&B - owner of a pubs estate comprising some 2,000 outlets - above #2.25 billion and also caused shares in rival operators such as Enter-prise Inns to rise.
A successful move would represent the latest round of consolidation in the sector following deals including the acquisition by R20's Laurel Pub Company of Yates's - a move creating one of the UK's biggest high street operators.
R20 stressed that discussions regarding an approach were at an early stage and there could be no certainty that an offer would be made.
It said: "Following share price movements, R20, the investment vehicle of Robert Tchenguiz, confirms that it has been discussing with a number of parties the possibility of forming a consortium to approach the board of Mitchells & Butlers in relation to a potential offer."
Mitchells & Butlers, which consists of the pick of the former Bass and Allied Domecq estates, also includes the chains Vintage Inns and Scream.
The business, which is headquartered in Fleet Street, Birmingham and led by chief executive Tim Clarke, was created in October 2002 after former Bass company Six Continents announced the separation of its hotels and retail divisions.
In a brief stock exchange statement, the group said: "The company has noted the announcement from R20. Should details of any offer be forthcoming, the company will make an announcements as appropriate."
Last month M&B said it remained cautious on the outlook for consumer spending, but added that it was confident of further market share gains.
In residential areas, which account for 70 per cent of business, like-for-like sales were up 4.7 per cent in the 16 weeks to January 21.
On the high street, the figure showed a rise of 2.8 per cent.
But gross margins reduced slightly as food and wine now account for 40 per cent of all sales. ..SUPL: