Premier Foods has been in discussions with a host of private equity groups regarding the potential sale of a stake in its bread business Hovis, it has been reported.

According to Sky News, Gavin Darby, chief executive of Premier Foods, is understood to have asked Ondra Partners, a mergers and acquisitions advisory firm, to lead the search for an outside investor.

Options are believed to include spinning out the bread business as an entirely separate company.

In October 2012, it was reported that Hovis was being positioned for sale, with investment bank Goldman Sachs brought in to seek out buyers, however Premier Foods would not comment on the rumours.

Last week, British Baker reported that sales in Premier’s Bread business were down 1.5% year-on-year, for the three months to 30 September 2013.

The drop in sales, which excludes milling and the exit of a ‘high cost to serve’ contract in April 2013, "reflected a slower start to the quarter as a result of the hotter July weather".

Premier Foods declined to comment on the reports.