Five companies are on the shortlist for the auction of the 1,450-outlet pub chain put up for sale by the UK's leading brewer, Scottish & Newcastle (S&N).

Mitchells & Butlers, Pubmaster, the Laurel Pub Company, Spirit Group and the French venture capital group, PAI Management, have until August 22 to submit their bids. S&N will then select two or three offers from which to make their final choice, hoping to complete the deal by the end of the year.