Campbell Soup, which announced its intention to sell units in the UK and Ireland in March, is rumoured to be nearing completion of the auction process with a sale expected to fetch between GBP400m (US$738.25m) and GBP450m.

Sales in the UK and Ireland generate annual revenues of about US$490m and include popular brands such as Homepride, OXO, Batchelors and Fray Bentos.

Premier Foods is considered the likely contender for the business, having announced its interest in future acquisitions - from Campbell and rival snack manufacturer United Biscuits - in May.

Reports have also linked RHM, the manufacturer of Hovis, Bisto and Mr Kipling, to a bid. While private equity groups Lion Capital, Doughty Hanson and Bain Capital are also said to be interested.

Campbell told just-food today (3 July) that while it does expect the process to be completed soon it is, as yet, unwilling to reveal when. "I am not able to confirm any timescale," Anne Burr, communications manager for Europe, said. "We do know when the process is likely to be completed but we are not releasing that information."