Associated British Foods is reportedly looking to sell its China-based sugar business for US$1bn.

A report from Bloomberg, citing a “person familiar with the matter”, said the process is in the very early stages with no deadline for completion.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal said bids for the business are due by the end of this month.

The company is said to be inviting bids for the China business, which was established in 1995 as part of a joint venture.

Market reports suggest the move could be a result of the recent slowdown in sugar consumption in China. Last year, ABF closed two sugar factories in China.

The speculation comes as ABF has reached an agreement to take full ownership of South African sugar business Illovo. Last month, the Kingsmill owner secured the backing of Illovo’s board to buy the 48.65% of outstanding Illovo shares that it does not already own for a total consideration of ZAR5.6bn (US$368.2m), or ZAR25 per share.