The leisure entrepreneur Robert Breare may call the bluff of the Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries board and decline to put in a bid before the deadline of April 5 imposed suddenly last week.

Staff, shareholders and customers at W&D have been waiting for someone to make a bid for the country's largest regional brewer since August last year. The two sides are a management buy-out lead by company managing director David Thompson, and a consortium led by Breare and his Noble House Leisure.

On Friday the W&D board

finally lost patience and issued a statement which said it had: "requested those parties who have expressed interest in acquiring W&DB to submit formal offers by no later than noon on Thursday 5 April, 2001."

However, observers believe Breare may refuse to be rushed into making a formal bid, and instead sit on his hands.

Directors said there was no certainty the deadline would result in an offer being made but if no satisfactory bid is forthcoming, they will go ahead with their own plans for "enhancing shareholder value".

Of the two offers currently informally on the table, the management team is being backed by UBS Capital, which is providing equity financing, while Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS Warburg are helping in debt financing.

The venture capital group Botts & Co is providing equity financing to Breare, and Merrill Lynch is underwriting the debt portion. Leverage finance firm Heller Financial and Bank of Scotland may participate in the debt arrangement as well.

Breare first expressed interest in the brewer last August.

The management team was expected to retain most of the group's business, including 1,780 pubs as well as four breweries producing Bank's, Marston's Pedigree and Mansfield beers.

Breare was expected to sell around 1,000 pubs to Enterprise Inns if he succeeded in his bid. Wolverhampton shares have outperformed its peers by 43% since bid talk emerged last August,

Both parties are understood to have tabled offers of around 500 pence per share, valuing the equity of the brewing and pubs operator at around £472m.

However, the winner will also be taking over debt which stands at more than £500m, putting an enterprise value of above £1bn on the whole

group.