SOS Corporación Alimentaria has announced 700 temporary layoffs and acknowledged that six international and local bidders have expressed interest in its household rice business.

In a regulatory statement, the company said the layoffs will be carried out on a rotating schedule in different factories for one week to minimise "overcapacity" .

The group is engaged in a restructuring plan to cut its debt to some EUR650m (US$966.6m) by 2013 from EUR1bn now. The plan envisages selling some property assets and its stalwart rice division Sos.

An SOS spokesperson confirmed four international bidders from Italy, Belgium, Central Europe and Brazil have added themselves to compatriots Ebro Puleva and Nueva Rumasa in pursuit of its rice division.

She said the firm "hopes to sell the business as soon as possible" but would not comment further.

Nueva Rumasa last week proposed a "strategic alliance" to create Spain's largest food company, averting the rice unit's sale and bringing "significant commercial and production synergies" while enabling it to refinance its debt more cheaply.

The SOS spokesperson said the company is "reviewing Nueva Rumasa's offer among other alternatives".