Premier Foods plc has declined to comment on reports that a number of private-equity firms are trying to buy its spreads business for up to GBP180m (US$289m).

According to a number of reports, Morgan Stanley Private Equity, a division of the Wall Street investment banking giant, is vying with a number of other buy-out firms in the first round of the auction for Premier Foods’ spreads business, which includes Sun-Pat and Hartley’s jams.

Other interested private-equity companies are believed to include TDR Capital, a former owner of Pizza Express, and CapVest, which used to own frozen fish brands Young’s and Findus, the Telegraph has reported.

It is thought Premier’s spreads business could change hands for between GBP160m and GBP180m.

When contacted by just-food, a Premier spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, Premier Foods are not commenting on this at present.”

The reports come as the food giant works to turn around its business and continue to offload some units.

The company is focusing on its core, “power brands”, which include Batchelors, Loyd Grossman, Oxo and Sharwood’s, and selling off non-core operations, which include brands like Hartley’s jam and Haywards pickles.

Last month, the company booked an increase in first-quarter sales, boosted by the performance of its ‘power brands’.