National Foods has asked the Australian competition watchdog whether it has concerns over the company potentially buying Dairy Farmers.

Dairy Farmers confirmed National Foods’ interest in a statement to its members today (18 April).

Speculation had been rife that National Foods, owned by Japanese conglomerate Kirin Holdings, was one of the potential suitors in the A$920m (US$854m) race for Dairy Farmers.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has started its review into a possible sale of Dairy Farmers to National Foods, the co-operative said.

Dairy Farmers chief executive Rob Gordon said any potential suitors with dairy operations would need to seek regulatory clearance from the ACCC.

“Of course, any party bidding for Dairy Farmers that does not have existing dairy operations in Australia would not be expected to seek an ACCC review at this point,” Gordon said.

“However, such parties may be required to seek the approval of the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) during coming months.

Two weeks ago, it was reported that Goodman Fielder, the Australia-based food group, had pulled out of the running after refusing to sign confidentiality agreements necessary to secure its place in the auction for Dairy Farmers.

Local reports have cited co-operative Murray Goulburn, Italian dairy giant Parmalat as other potential suitors for the business.