Punch Taverns has formally started the sale process for 500 of its leased pubs by offering their existing lessees first refusal on the properties.

The group, which said in November that it would sell about 6% of its 8,360-pub estate, sent letters to the lessees at the end of last month asking them to make offers by about Easter if interested in buying their pub.

A spokesman said that Punch had already received 'considerable interest' from lessees, but declined to give further details about the sale process.

The Times