US confectionery giant Hershey has insisted that India remains a “key focus market” amid local reports that it is close to ending its five-year partnership deal with Godrej Group.

According to the Economic Times, Hershey is planning to offload its stake in Godrej in order to operate independently in India through a 100% subsidiary, Hershey Confectionery India. The firm reportedly registered the new company last month and appointed its international controller, Richard McConville, and vice president of finance, Milton Brice, as directors of the unit.

Indian private-equity firm IL&FS Investment Managers is said to be in “advanced stages of negotiations” to buy out Hershey’s stake in Godrej, the publication noted.

Earlier this year, the private equity firm reportedly brushed off claims that it was in talks to buy out Hershey from its joint venture in the country, in which Hershey owns a 51% stake. Godrej Industries owns 43.4%, and A Mahendran, director at Godrej Hershey, has the remaining stake.

The report follows speculation that emerged last year claiming that the venture had come to an end.

While Godrej said it would not comment on market speculation, a Hershey spokesperson said: “India is a key focus market for The Hershey Company. We have no announcements regarding our business in India.”

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