Enterprise Inns is to reclaim the number one position as the UK's biggest pubs operator. The group has confirmed that it is to buy the Unique Pub Company for just over £600m.

The company, which acquired a 16.8% stake in Unique in 2002 for £75m, will nearly double its estate to 9143 pubs if the deal wins shareholder approval. The acquisition will allow Enterprise to leapfrog Punch Taverns who climbed to the number one spot late last year through its takeover of Pubmaster.

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of March.