Alchemy, the private equity house, may be prepared to sell its Innspired Pub Company if the right offer is made. The hint came from Alchemy partner Robert Barnes at the Pub Strategy Conference held in London on March 14.

Barnes argued that financial engineers had got ahead of themselves. The pendulum had gone too far in the pub sector with people prepared to pay too higher prices.

He said: "We shall be withdrawing until there are some reasonable prices."

Barnes said that there was a new breed of VC financiers in the industry who were happy to have cashflow as their major financial return. He also argued that private equity will be the primary vehicle for investment.

He told delegates that profit was the main element of any deal and that Alchemy wanted to see profits, cashflows and assets. But, he also argued that there has to be something in it for everyone including the management and the employees.

Many bar concepts are not sustainable and present a problem to rolling out chain operations, he said.

Those who will survive in the pub industry are the larger companies while the smaller tenanted and managed operations were going to have a very difficult time, he told delegates.