US food group Dole Food Co. has admitted it is in talks to sell two units, including its packaged food arm, to Japanese conglomerate Itochu Corp.

Dole in May launched a review of its operations to “enhance shareholder value”. It said today (12 September) the companies were in “advanced negotiations” over the sale of its packaged food and Asian fresh businesses.

The company said it was responding to “market rumours” and insisted “no definitive agreements” had been signed.

“Dole continues in discussions with several other parties regarding these assets and others,” it added.

In July, Dole reported lower half-year underlying profits. It said comparable income from continuing operations was US$83.8m for the six months to 16 June, down from $135.1m a year earlier. EBIT before discontinued operations was $152.1m, against $173.5m the previous year.

Revenues were $3.35bn. A year earlier, Dole booked revenue of $3.6bn.

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In 2011, Dole made net income from continuing operations of $42m, compared to a loss of $34m in 2010.

Click here for our analysis of Itochu’s interest in Dole’s assets.