Northern Irish independent supermarket and off-licence group Curley's has refused to confirm or deny rumours that it is on the verge of selling the business to one of the big three multiples operating in the province.

Reports that owner Hugh Kennedy was considering selling Curley's, which has a turnover of £57,000, surfaced this week in the local press, with Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda suggested as possible buyers.

"There always seem to be rumours surrounding Curley's," said a spokeswoman for the group.

"We had the same during the summer and I thought that things had died down."

She confirmed that it

was business as usual for

the group and that work

on extensions planned

to both its supermarket

sites, in Belfast and Dungannon, was going ahead as normal.

In addition to its two large superstores, Curley's also runs 13 off-licences in Northern Ireland.

Last year the group made a pre-tax profit of £1.5m.