Wessanen has refused to be drawn on whether it has started talks to sell its North American operations - as speculation over the Dutch food group's plans sent its shares soaring today (10 June).

The company's shares were up 7.9% at EUR3.32 at 16:09 CET this afternoon with one analyst reportedly citing US distributor United Natural Foods (UNFI) as a potential suitor for Wessanen's operations.

Officials at UNFI could not be reached for immediate comment, while a Wessanen spokesman declined to comment on whether the company had already discussions with interested parties over its businesses across the Atlantic.

The Wessanen spokesman insisted the group was still considering its options but hinted that a sale was likely.

"We are still in the discovery phase but clearly a sale is looking the most attractive option," he told just-food.

The spokesman also refused to be drawn on when Wessanen would come to a definitive conclusion over its plans but admitted a quick decision would help ease the financial pressure on the group.

"It would bring further relief to our financial position," he said.

Last Month, Wessanen admitted it had exceeded an agreed limit on its debt ratio. The company also booked a sharp fall in operating profit for the first quarter of the year.