Spirit Group could be sold off in a number of different bids, according to sources close to the UK pub operator. The private equity-owned company has given bidders until the middle of next month to throw their hats into the ring.

In a conference call yesterday (19 October), Spirit chief executive Karen Jones said: "We want to know whether these are serious approaches by mid-November. We want to bring discussions to a close by mid-November." Jones admitted that a number of unsolicited bids have been received since the early summer, but stopped short of naming them.

Sources close to the company have said that among the bidders are pub rivals Punch Taverns and Mitchells & Butlers, property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz, former WestLB banker Robin Saunders and Australia's Macquarie Bank.

The sources added that it is likely the end result could be several break-up bids for the company.

Spirit is the UK's biggest managed pubs group with 1,832 outlets.