Punch Taverns has made an approach to Spirit Group which could value the operator at up to £3bn. Talks are thought to be at a preliminary stage and an offer is not inevitable. Neither party has commented on the offer. Spirit is owned jointly by Texas Pacific Group, Blackstone and CVC Capital and Merrill Lynch. Punch is though to be planning to convert 1,200 of Spirit's 2000 pubs from managed to tenanted. It would then sell off the remaining 800 properties. The company has been on an aggressive acquisition drive, buying Pubmaster in 2003 and InnSpired in 2004. It is currently refinancing the business and looking at a wide range of acquisition targets. Spirit Group has soared up The Sunday Times "Top Track 100" of Britain's biggest private companies. Sales have jumped £1.2bn, lifting the company 46 places to number 16. Earnings before interest, tax and depreciation have reached £424m. Motorway service group Welcome Break eased ahead from 54th place to 53rd, but Laurel Pubs slipped from 88th to 98th. The Sunday Times 26/06/05 (Top Track 100 supplement) Financial Times 25/6/05 page M1 (Money & Business)