Tycoon Robert Tchenguiz is close to finalising a £400m refinancing of part of Laurel Pub Company, which owns the Slug & Lettuce and Ha Ha Bar & Canteen chains. The changes come as he lines up equity finance in preparation for a potential takeover offer for Mitchells & Butler. City sources suggest he working towards an offer of between 500p and 550p a share. A middle-range bid would value M&B at £2.6bn, or more than £4bn including the company's debts. But Observer columnist Frank Kane says he can see little prospect of Tchenguiz "and his friends pulling this one off". M&B chief executive Tim Clarke, he suggests, has a lot up his sleeve by way of response. Not only can he point to an impressive track record since M&B split off from the old Bass empire, but he can hold out the prospect of decent earning ahead. As well as tantalising investors with hints of a bonanza dividend, there could be some acquisitions at the "superpub" end of the business. Kane argues that it boils down to a straightforward choice – stay with proven management who have a solid track record, or take the cash from "a bunch of suave asset-strippers". The Sunday Times 19/03/06 (Business) page 3.2 The Observer 19/03/06 (Business) page 3