Mitchells & Butlers’ (M&B) bubble could burst as the environment in which it trades becomes increasingly volatile, The Business says. The newspapers says the pub company will be going into a year which will have tough comparable figures to beat when the environment is expected to get tougher for the consumer; its cost base continues to rise with higher utility charges and an increase in the minimum wage on the way; it faces a pensions adjustment which will knock about £11m off the profit and loss account and there is a looming UK ban on smoking in public places – M&B will not benefit from current proposals to exempt non-food pubs. The business describes the company as "a high-wire act" because its managed pub estate is so highly operationally geared. The Business 5/12/04 page 7