Speculation over the future of Wessanen is growing after volatility in the Dutch food group’s share price in the last 24 hours.

Wessanen, which is looking to sell its US operations to refocus on Europe, saw its shares reach an 11-month high yesterday (17 December) amid rumours that the sale of a key US business was imminent.

The company is looking to offload its Tree of Life unit in the US and had earmarked a sale by the end of the year.

At one stage yesterday, shares in Wessanen rose by more than 7% to EUR4.98 before closing at EUR4.94.

Rumours also grew that Wessanen could attract a takeover bid for its entire business, rather than just the Tree of Life operations.

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However, Wessanen’s stock has fallen back today, sliding 4.6% to EUR4.71 at 15:53 CET this afternoon.

Wessanen could not be reached for comment as just-food went to press although CFO Frans Eelkman Rooda told Reuters that the sale of Tree of Life was “continuing and well on its way”.

However, with a sale of Tree of Life planned for the end of 2009, the investor community is watching the situation at Wessanen with interest.

Fernand de Boer, an analyst at Petercam also pointed to rumours that Wessanen is finding it difficult to appoint a new CEO.

Frans Koffrie was appointed as Wessanen’s chief executive on an interim basis in February after Ad Veenhof left the business.

De Boer said Wessanen had indicated a new CEO would be appointed by November. He claimed the appointment was vital to Wessanen pressing on with its strategy to focus on Europe and would reduce the uncertainty surrounding the business.

“Some people believe that Wessanen is not really able to get a new CEO. There are other people who say there may be other companies trying to buy the whole business,” de Boer told just-food.

More to come…