Philippines conglomerate San Miguel Corp. has admitted its interest in the Asia-Pacific operations of US-based food group Dole Food Co.

San Miguel, the largest food and beverage maker in the Philippines, told the country's stock exchange today (20 July) that it was eyeing Dole's Asian businesses.

"We confirm that the company is interested in Dole Food Co. and its other units in the Asia-Pacific region," San Miguel said.

The company was asked by the stock exchange to clarify reports that appeared in the Philippines press yesterday linking it to Dole's local assets.

Dole, which claims to be the world's largest seller of fruit and vegetables, sells canned fruit, packaged fruit snacks and tomato sauce in the Philippines.

The group has been selling off selected assets in a bid to trim debt. In January, Dole completed the sale of its flowers business and certain Latin American banana properties.

Last month, however, Dole said it would start direct distribution of its fruit products in Romania with the acquisition of long-standing local partner Distrifrut.

Sylvain Cuperlier, Dole vice president, told just-food that the company would look for similar deals to enter other markets in Central and Eastern Europe.