A stock market float is still on the agenda for Spirit Group despite City concerns that growth has stalled in the business.
The combination of a slowdown in trading and the recent confirmation that Spirit is considering selling another package of pubs led to suggestions that the company might be broken up.
Spirit's private equity investors Blackstone, CVC Capital Partners and Texas Pacific, who backed the buyout of Scottish & Newcastle Retail in 2003, will be looking for an exit at some point.
Plans for a float are understood to have been delayed, although chief executive Karen Jones (pictured) insists there has never been any time frame, and "a float remains the most likely exit route."
The S&N deal saw Spirit overtake Mitchells & Butlers to become the UK's biggest managed pub operator. However, in December last year it sold 364 pubs to Robert Tchenguiz's Globe Pub Company, and in recent weeks has confirmed it will consider a sale of 220 more high street pubs and bars, following approaches from potential buyers.
Recent trading figures revealed that current trading was 2.2 per cent ahead year on year, driven by revamped pubs, while sales at uninvested sites were flat. While not bad going in the current market, the performance raised concerns that a float might have been delayed for too long to keep the company's backers happy.
Ms Jones said: "Our track record is, to say the least, enviable. We are used to seeing like-for-like sales growth of 3 per cent or 4 per cent. Are we going to be satisfied with flat sales at uninvested pubs? Of course not. Our ambition is much greater than that."