Mr Hands has been trying to form a joint bid with Alchemy, the venture capitalists, and Whitbread, whose own bid for Allied's 3,600-strong estate was scuppered by the Competition Commission. However, he has failed to reach agreement with Alchemy, which is headed by his near neighbour but arch-rival John Moulton. Talks with Whitbread have also broken down.
Unless he can find support from elsewhere, Mr Hands will have to look to his employers for the funds needed to top Punch, whose pounds 2.75bn offer has been recommended to shareholders by the Allied board. Punch's bid should be finalised by early September unless it suffers the same fate as Whitbread at the hands of the regulators. A bid by Nomura, which already controls 5,000 pubs after a series of deals, could also run into regulatory trouble.
The intervention of Mr Hands is the latest twist in a three- month saga since Allied ann-ounced its plan to sell the pubs to Whitbread. Punch, led by 37-year-old Hugh Osmond, became the strong favourite to secure the estate after Whitbread's withdrawal earlier this month, but Allied has been trying to drum up interest elsewhere.
A spokesman for Nomura refused to comment on any plans to bid for Allied's pubs.