Robert Tchenguiz is close to tying up a £4.5bn property joint venture with Mitchells & Butlers, according to reports. The deal is expected to allow M&B to return up to £1bn to shareholders. It will also facilitate a £200m pension contribution and give M&B scope to pursue further acquisitions, such as its purchase of 239 pubs from Whitbread last summer. Possible targets are thought to include Spirit Group, owned by Punch Taverns, and the remaining 400 sites operated by Whitbread. The Times suggests this morning that the deal with Tchenguiz, who owns Laurel Pub Company and has a 14% stake in M&B, will see more than 1,500 sites placed into a 50-50 joint venture with Tchenguiz’s R20 investment vehicle. It is expected that the deal will produce a property yield of 5.5%. The decision to pursue a joint venture by M&B follows pressure from Tchenguiz to spin off its entire property portfolio into a Real Estate Investment Trust (Reit). However, M&B rejected this on the grounds that it wanted to retain some control of its assets. Tchenguiz launched an abortive offer for the group last year at 550p per share. The shares are currently trading at 892p.