According to widespread reports in the UK press, the brewer, Scottish & Newcastle, has as expected cut down the number of bidders for its pub and hotel business, valued at between £2.3 billion to £2.5 billion, to a final shortlist of three.

The three bidders are thought to be Laurel Pub Company, financed by Nomura, Spirit, the pub operator backed jointly by Texas Pacific Group and Blackstone, and a joint bid from CVC and Cinven.

To the considerable surprise of many analysts, S&N have eliminated the bid from Mitchells & Butler, the pubs business which was formerly part of the Six Continents group, which at one stage was thought to be one of the strongest bidders.

A spokesperson for Mitchells & Butler confirmed that it was not on the shortlist. The pub operator, Pubmaster, whose bid was being backed by WestLB, also confirmed that it was also not on the shortlist.