MGPE set to win pub auction

Morgan Grenfell’s £1.65bn bid for the Whitbread portfolio is thought to have left Punch Taverns with the short straw.

Morgan Grenfell Private Equity (MGPE), in what would be the firm’s most promising bid yet to resurrect its fortunes after a dreadful year 2000, is believed to be the buyer of the 3,000 pubs that are being sold by Whitbread, the restaurants, hotels and leisure group.

MGPE, still hurting from huge losses incurred last year from its exposure to troubled German media group EM.TV, is expected to announce victory in the fight for the estate which it fought against Candover, Nomura and, most notably, Hugh Osmond of Punch Taverns.

MGPE is believed to have bid £1.65bn for Whitbread's pubs whilst Punch is understood to have bid £1.6bn. Last week the firm was given exclusivity for further negotiations, amidst claims from Punch Taverns that it should not be allowed to partake in the bidding because its owner Deutsche Bank was part of a non-compete agreement signed by Punch to years ago.

The claim came after Osmond had successfully evoked a similar clause preventing Luke Johnson, the restaurant entrepreneur, to lead the original Morgan Grenfell bid. With Johnson sidelined, MGPE decided to press ahead with the bid regardless.