The deadline for takeover bids for the £2.5bn Spirit pubs group will be November 7. Punch Taverns and Mitchells & Butlers are favourites to win the race. They are thought to have been working on a joint approach for several weeks. A deal would give M&B the top 500 pubs, including the Chef & Brewer chain, while Punch would take the rest of the 2,000-strong estate. The Mail on Sunday 16/10/05 (Financial Mail) page 5