Tesco has refused to be drawn on reports in Italy that it is interested in buying a stake in local retailer Esselunga.

The UK's largest retailer has been linked to Esselunga, Italy's fifth-largest supermarket operator, which is said to be up for sale.

According to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Esselunga's owners are ready to sell a stake in the business, prompting rumours of Tesco's interest in the company.

However, Tesco stayed tight-lipped when contacted by just-food today (20 September). "We don't issue any comment on such speculation and rumours," a spokesman for Tesco said.

Officials at Esselunga could not be reached for comment as just-food went to press.