Britain's largest pub operator, Punch Taverns PLC, is in merger talks with troubled rival Mitchells and Butlers PLC, British newspapers reported Sunday. The group, which already has more than 8,400 eating and drinking establishments throughout Britain, has tabled an all-share proposal to take over Mitchells and Butlers, The Sunday Telegraph said. A similar report was carried by The Sunday Times. Both companies declined comment on the reported talks, which, if successful, would create a group worth around 3.7 billion pounds ($7.3 billion) with more than 10,500 outlets. The Sunday Times said that, under the Punch proposal, Punch chief executive Giles Thorley would head the new company. Mitchells and Butlers recently announced it had lost 274 million pounds ($538 million) in a collapsed property deal and an interest rate hedge, leading to the resignation of its finance director.