Whitbread, the leisure group, saw its shares rise by 50p to £15.43 amid further speculation that Starwood Capital, the American property investor, was preparing a £17.50 bid for the company, which would value it at more than £4bn. Starwood is believed to have already acquired a stake of almost 3% in Whitbread, fuelling takeover talk. Speculation that Starwood was working on a bid approach was further increased when Desmond Taljaard, Whitbread’s former group development director, joined Starwood Capital Europe as a senior vice president and head of asset management.