Sprit has cleared a big hurdle ahead of a possible float next year with the completion of a £2.1bn refinancing. It also paves the way for a dividend payment to the UK pubs operator’s private-equity backers. The news comes as Spirit nears the end of an auction for 364 managed pubs. These are believed to be worth more than £300m. A sale is expected before Christmas. Punch Taverns and Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries are thought to be among the possible bidders. Financial Times (Money & Business) 27/11/04 page 2