Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has annouced plans to ward off predators by raising a war chest of cash.
Britain's biggest managed house group will re-mortgage its pubs, raising £1.7bn.
The move will make a takeover less attractive. One of the main incentives to buy M&B was the opportunity to load the pubs up with debt, and pocket the cash.
A clutch of groups were thought to be circling M&B, which operates concepts such as Ember Inns, Harvester and Toby Carvery. It has already fought off pub tycoon Hugh Osmond.
The Punch entrepreneur bid for M&B when it was still part of hotel group Six Continents (6C). Mr Osmond mounted a £7bn offer for the entire 6C business.
Then private equity specialist BC Partners made a £2.8bn approach for the 2,050-pub group, but that was rejected as too low an offer.
Other groups such as Laurel and finance group Cinven were also thought to be interested.
The £1.7bn will be raised by re-packaging debt in a process known as securitisation. M&B intends to use £1.3bn to pay down existing debts and return £400m to its shareholders.
M&B announced plans to raise the cash as it unveiled half-year results. Profits were flat against last year, at £191m althought sales rose one per cent to £793m.
Like-for-like sales in the pubs and bars division, which inlcudes Ember Inns and O'Neill's, were doen 4.3 per cent.
Comparible figures in the pub restaurant division, led by Toby Carvery and Vintage Inns, fell by 2.8 per cent.