Whitbread says it expects to return about 75% of the proceeds of the sale of its 3,000-pub estate to shareholders by the middle of the year, which should give them upwards of £1bn.

Whitbread says the sale of of 1,710 leased pubs and 1,288 managed pubs, including the Hogshead and Casa bar chains is "on schedule and proceeding well". Estimates of the amount being bid now up to £1.7bn. Even after right-offs, that should give shareholders a net ten-figure sum.

Dealings in the shares of Whitbread Holdings, the new holding company for the Whitbread Group, began on Monday morning on the London Stock Exchange's market for listed securities.

An announcement by Whitbread on the name of the successful bidder for its pubs is expected at the end of March.