French dairy groups Lactalis and Fromageries Bel have refused to be drawn on whether they would be interested in buying Unilever's cheese brand Boursin.

Reports in France claimed that the companies are among the candidates keen on acquiring Boursin, which was officially put up for sale at the beginning of the month.

However, both firms declined to comment when contacted by just-food on whether they had submitted bids ahead of the deadline for initial offers on 20 September.

"A lot of media attention is focusing on this sale and it's just not the right time for us to say anything," a Lactalis spokesman said.

French media reports say Unilever is looking to tie up the sale by the end of the year or early 2008 with the sale price expected to range from EUR300m (US$424m) to EUR350m.

A spokesperson for Unilever France refused to comment on the reports.

When contacted by just-food, Goldman Sachs, the bank appointed by Unilever to handle the sale, declined to comment on the process, not even to confirm that the deadline for initial offers had passed.