The CEO of the UK's largest pub group, Punch Taverns, is to step down.

Giles Thorley will leave Punch after nine years at the pub group, Punch announced today (31 March). Neither party gave a reason for his departure.

Punch said that it "is well advanced with the process of appointing a successor as CEO and there will be an orderly transition of management".

Punch chairman Peter Cawdron praised Thorley for leading Punch through a turbulent period for the UK pub industry.

"His dedication has not waivered during good and bad times and he will leave a business poised to benefit from an improvement in economic conditions."

Punch has been forced to sell of pubs over the last year in order to boost the firm's balance sheet.

The group said in December: "Trading into this financial year has as expected remained difficult, and the challenging economic environment and our smaller pub estate will affect profitability in the short term."