The Spirit pubs group is poised to enter into exclusive sale talks, according to press reports.

According to Reuters, sources close to the deal claimed that property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz will enter talks with Spirit in the next few days to buy the group for GBP2.8bn (US$4.8bn).

The Iranian-born entrepreneur will trump a bid from tenanted pubs group Punch Taverns of GBP2.6-2.7bn, the sources told Reuters.

"Robert has a robust and pretty attractive bid and hopes to go into exclusive talks this week," said one source.

But if Tchenguiz's bid is not fully financed or he needs to drop his price, then Punch may step in as it has shareholder approval and a fully financed bid, the sources added.

"Punch is just one signature away from a deal," another source told Reuters.

Spirit, which is owned by private equity groups Texas Pacific Group, the Blackstone Group and CVC Capital Partners, along with investment bank Merrill Lynch, and with the management holding a small stake, consists of just over 1,800 managed pubs. The company received four bids by last week's deadline, Reuters noted.

Other bidders include former WestLB banker Robin Saunders and the billionaire private investors the Barclay Brothers, the news agency said.