The bidding war for the sale of Scottish & Newcastle's pub estate has begun with at least nine companies submitting proposals yesterday.

Reports in the UK have said that a mixture of trade buyers and private-equity houses have joined the sale process. A shortlist of around five bidders, drawn up by S&N, is expected in the next couple of days.

S&N is selling its 1,450 pubs and Premier Lodge chain of around 140 mid-market hotels in order to focus on its core brewing operations. It hopes to achieve a price over £2.3 billion for the business.

The names of Mitchells & Butlers PLC; Pubmaster; a consortium of The Laurel Pub Company and the private-equity unit of Japan's Nomura Holdings Inc; Spirit Group, which is backed by US private-equity firm Texas Pacific Group and UK entrepreneur Hugh Osmond; a consortium of UK private-equity firms CVC Capital Partners Ltd and Cinven Group Ltd.; UK  private-equity house Terra Firma and UK gaming and leisure billionaire Trevor Hemmings, have all been mentioned as suitors in reports today.