Speculation is mounting that Unilever will announce the sale of its frozen foods division later this week.

In September, the company revealed that it was undergoing a review of its frozen foods businesses across 11 countries in the EU, including the UK's Birds Eye and Igloo brands.

William McIntosh, spokesperson for Unilever ice-cream and frozen foods division, UK, told just-food that the review was considering four options for future strategy, emphasising that the company viewed a sale as one of four ways forward.

The Independent on Sunday has reported that Unilever may already have a buyer for its Western European frozen foods division lined up, citing sources close to the transaction.

The newspaper said those interested in the business include investment companies Blackstone and CapVest.

According to the report, Unilever will announce the sale on Thursday (9 February) when it releases its fourth-quarter results. Analysts anticipate a decline in profits of 8% for the fourth quarter.

"We are announcing our Q4 results on Thursday," McIntosh told just-food. "Some commentators have linked this with the report on our frozen foods division. This is purely speculation."

When asked to confirm whether news on the frozen foods division would be revealed with the Q4 results, McIntosh said he "could not comment."

Analysts have estimated the value of the business at between EUR1.5bln (US$1.798bln) and EUR2.0bln (US$2.398bln). It is expected that, should the sale go through, proceeds will be used to repay debts, return capital to its shareholders and enlarge the share buyback programme.