Final bids for Whitbread pubs due today

Nomura, Punch Taverns and an alliance between Candover and Pubmaster are believed to be the final bidders. A bid from Luke Johnson looks uncertain.

Final bids for Whitbread’s pub empire are due to be sent to investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein today.

The final bidders include Nomura’s principle finance group, Punch Taverns which is headed by Hugh Osborne and private equity group Candover, which is believed to be bidding with Pubmaster. It is not clear whether restaurant owner Luke Johnson will submit a final bid as he is has signed a ‘no compete’ clause with his former colleague Osborne.

Nomura is a strong contender for the pubs. It has already submitted a £1.4bn bid but it is expected to increase that offer. Last month, the group acquired 988 largely managed pubs from Bass plc for £625m. The deal made it Britain’s largest pub owner but it is still eager to acquire more.

Whitbread is expected to start negotiations with the highest bidder next week. The pub group hopes to gain between £1.4bn and 1.6bn for the estate, which consists of 1,710 leased pubs, and 1,288 managed pubs including the Hogshead and Casa bar chains. The successful bidder could be named by the end of March.