The banker to Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries, NM Rothschild, was accused last week of trying to push up interest in the bidding or the company to justify the W&D board's rejection of a 500p a share bid last year.

The bid came from the entrepreneur Robert Breare, in partnership with the venture capitalist Botts & Co. Soon afterwards W&D's shares peaked at 510p, but they have since plunged to 430p, and were running at around 455p last week.

Rothschild was said to be telling W&D's shareholders last week hat potential suitors have shown interest in taking out the brewer at more than 500p a share.

However, one fund manager with a significant stake in W&D said he was sceptical of claims that anybody would pay a price that would value the group at more than £472m. He said "It's Rothschild's way of rekindling interest in an auction process, now that the brewer is officially for sale."

A spokesman for one of the bidders said: "Rothschild is now trying to generate interest in the auction, push the price up higher so that it gives credence to the board's decision to reject the

500p offer last year."

Breare and Botts have allegedly secured double the financing needed to make a 500p cash offer, while informal talks have been held between Breare and Enterprise Inns about W&D's tenanted pubs, which make up around half the 1,700-unit estate.

While a management buyout is still a possibility, the management-led team is allegedly having trouble securing financing. Other bidders include Pubmaster, which decided to bid for the whole company when it was told it could not buy the tenanted estate on its own. In addition, Nomura's investment arm, Principal Finance Group has been asked if it was interested in launching a bid.

Bids have to be in by April 20, after the original deadline was extended from April