Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) could return at least £500m to shareholders if the owner of the All Bar One and Harvester chains is unable to make acquisitions. The announcement, which bolsters M&B’s defences against a potential bid from Robert Tchenguiz, was accompanied by a trading statement in which it reported that like-for-like sales grew 4.3% in the 13 weeks to April 22 on slightly improved margins. It said it expected interim profits to rise 10% on strong sales in the second quarter. M&B plans to revalue its property assets and it said the sale of assets in prime locations would increase from about £40m to nearer £50 or £60m. The company said that its interest in Whitbread’s 250 Beefeater and Brewers Fayre pubs was “an open secret”. Morgan Stanley said that any deal to buy the Whitbread pubs would not preclude returning some cash to shareholders. Tchenguiz has until May 8 to bid for M&B or walk away. The Daily Telegraph says the good news coming out of M&B means Tchenguiz’s proposed 550p-a-share bid will go down about as well as a flat pint. It says Tchenguiz would struggle to deliver a winning bid and would need to offer £6 a share to win the day. Financial Times 29/04/06 page 15, page 16 (Lombard) The Daily Telegraph 29/04/06 page 28 (DataBase), page 30 (Business Comment), page 31 The Times 29/04/06 page 62 (Need to know)