French food giant Danone has confirmed it is in advanced talks to sell its Irish Biscuits division.

In a statement Danone said, "These discussions may or may not lead to an agreement but are advanced enough for the group to adjust the value of its assets in its accounts."

Danone is thought to be considering a sale of the Dublin operation as part of its strategy of reviewing biscuit operations in all of its markets. Irish Biscuits manufactures the Jacob's brand, which includes well known products such as Jacob's Cream Crackers, Kimberley, Mikado and Coconut Creams.

Irish Biscuits was formed in the 1960s from the merger of Jacob's and Boland's Biscuits. It has an annual turnover of some €100m (US$122.6m), but this is tiny in the context of the €13bn in sales recorded by Paris-based Danone last year, as Business World Ireland commented. Danone is the world's second-largest producer of biscuits, but its biscuit division has been performing poorly of late against competition from private-label operators.

just-food.com recently reported that UK-based United Biscuits and private equity firm Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst were thought to be among the potential buyers. A further announcement will be made as negotiations proceed.

Meanwhile Danone today [Thursday] reported first half profits up by 8.2%, just slightly behind forecasts, and confirmed that full-year sales would be at the top end of its 5-7% growth target.

Net profit came in at €436, just below analyst expectations in the range of €439-465m. The company confirmed that it was on track for a 40 basis-point rise in its full-year operating margin.

Fresh dairy products and beverages saw the biggest gains with sales up in these division by 11.2% and 9.4% respectively.