Dairy Farmers of Britain has received an “unsolicited serious approach” for the business, the company revealed yesterday.

The farmer-owned co-operative said discussions had been opened with a third-party business following the approach. Discussions were at a preliminary stage, with no guarantee of a firm bid, it added.

A spokesman for the company refused to confirm whether the bid was for all or part of the business, but stressed that DFB had not officially been up for sale. M&A advisers from PriceWaterhouseCoopers have been employed to review the approach.

Rumours have persisted over the past year that other companies were interested in the struggling co-operative’s business. Those intensified following a DFB restructuring in November that saw up to a quarter of its staff laid off and the proposed closure of the Fole and Portsmouth dairies.

The £562m company has also been under heavy scrutiny since it cancelled a scheduled half-yearly payment on members’ accounts last year, thought to be worth around £1.75m. That was intensified by a number of high-profile management departures and two reductions in the farmer milk price during the winter.

“DFB is committed to achieving the best outcome for the long-term benefit for its farmer members and will therefore explore any opportunity that will enhance member value,” the company said in a statement.