NORTHFIELD, Ill. -- Kraft General Foods here pointedly declined to comment last week on speculation that its food-service business is being eyed for a possible sell-off.
Talk in the industry about the possible sale of Deerfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foodservice apparently was spurred by a Feb. 28 article in the business weekly, Crain's Chicago Business.
The story indicated that the company has hired a consultant and an investment banker to study alternatives for its $4-billion-a-year food-service business.
Others in the industry have speculated that Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart could be a buyer of the division.
Patrick Farrell, director of corporate communications for Kraft General Foods, said, however, that he has not confirmed any of the information reported in Crain's, and added that his company "does not participate in stories based on pure speculation."
Kraft's parent company, Philip Morris, New York, referred inquiries back to Kraft General Foods. So did the public affairs department of Kraft USA, Glenview, Ill.
An analyst at Salomon Bros., New York, who tracks Philip Morris, said the food-service area of Kraft "has been identified as an underperformer, and it's been rumored for some time that the division will be sold. It wouldn't be surprising, but I have no word that the company has taken action to sell the division."
A source in the public affairs department of Wal-Mart expressed surprise that there's talk of Wal-Mart's buying Kraft Foodservice. "We have no information that indicates that," she said. And Joseph Ronning, an analyst at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., New York, who tracks Wal-Mart, said he's had no indication that the retailer is negotiating to buy Kraft Foodservice.