National Foods, the Australian food group, remains locked in talks with local dairy firm Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory (WCB) over the fate of their planned cheese venture.

The two sides first struck a deal on the venture last August after National Foods secured the A$910m (US$685.8m) takeover of Dairy Farmers.

However, the fate of the 50:50 venture remains unclear after WCB pulled a rights issue drawn up to fund its stake in the business last month. The firm’s managing director has also left the business following a U-turn on the prices it pays its milk suppliers.

A spokesman for National Foods refused to be drawn on the nature of the company’s discussions with WCB or whether the equity make-up of the venture could change.

“We are currently working through a range of options for [the everyday cheese] business, including a joint venture with Warrnambool Cheese and Butter,” the National Foods spokesman told just-food today (15 May). “The everyday cheese business is an important part of National Foods.”

WCB told just-food yesterday that changes to the structure of the venture were a “possibility”.

National Foods is owned by Japanese conglomerate Kirin Holdings. Earlier this week, Kirin reported that its first-quarter losses widened on the back of one-off securities and impairment charges.