Observers believe returning more cash to shareholders or making a bid for Whitbread's pub restaurants are the two best defensive options for Mitchells & Butlers to ward off a bid by Iranian property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz.
Lifting company debt from £1.6bn to £2bn would allow a significant boost to any cash return programme.
Other observers believe M&B should mount a bid for Whitbread's Brewer's Fayre and Beefeater chains.
The move would allow M&B further progress as a food-orientated retailer. M&B could even divest itself of some its smaller turnover pubs and wet-led high-street operations. Meanwhile, other venture capitalists are reported to be ready to join the bidding for M&B.
Regent Inns executive chairman Bob Ivell has confirmed he has received approaches from several venture capitalists about fronting an alternative bidding consortium.
Commenting on the upswing in private-equity interest in the leisure sector, Mark Brumby, analyst at Oriel Securities, said: "While debt remains cheaper than equity and banks are willing to lend, these deals will continue to be proposed if not consummated."