Punch Taverns has confirmed its interest in the 350 pubs earmarked for a possible sale by the Spirit Group, which are estimated to be worth between £250m and £300m.
Punch chief executive Giles Thorley revealed that he had signed a confidentiality agreement with Spirit which allows Punch to study its financial information.
"They are high quality pubs of the type we would be interested in acquiring," he said yesterday at the presentation of Punch's annual figures.
Although Punch has grown to more than 8,300 pubs over the past year with the acquisition of Pubmaster and InnSpired, Thorley believes the group could run a maximum of 12,000 pubs in the UK and is actively seeking acquisitions.
Wolverhampton & Dudley, Enterprise Inns and a number of property investment firms are also believed to be looking at the pubs which Spirit announced last month were no longer core to its business.
This announcement followed a review of Spirit's 2,400-strong estate, which it bought form Scottish & Newcastle Retail last year.
The sale is seen as a precursor to an expected stock market flotation next year that could net Spirit up to £200m.
by Angela Frewin
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