Quorn sale to carve chunk out of Premier's debt

Premier Foods yesterday said it was considering offers for its meat substitute business including "Quorn". The company said it had "received approaches" for the business – which could be worth up to £250m – and was now considering a possible sell-off.

Premier, whose brands include Bisto Gravy and Branston Pickle, wants to cut its £1.4bn debt mountain by up to £500m and a sale of Quorn would get it half way towards that target.

A successful disposal would also provide a welcome boost to Ronnie Bell, who took over as chairman on Friday. Premier first signalled that it was looking at disposals to cut debt at its interim results "provided they added value to the business".

International groups such as Unilever, Nestlé, or Danone are all seen as possible buyers for the business, which was bought for £172m in 2005.

Premier, run by chief executive Robert Schofield, recorded a pre-tax loss of £54m at the first half and said trading conditions were tough. Last year it received an approach for Mr Kipling cakes and there have even been rumours Hovis is up for sale.