Irish independent supermarket Maxworth Supermarkets has applied to the Irish High Court for protection against its creditors after racking up reported debts of E2m.

The chain, with stores in Drogheda, County Louth, and the Dublin suburb of Blanchardstown, said it had been experiencing cashflow difficulties as a result of ­increased market competition from major players Tesco and Dunnes Stores and discounters Lidl and Aldi.

The court heard that the company had "a reasonable chance of survival" if its debts could be restructured, or if a buyer could be found. Accountant Kieran McCarthy, of the Dublin firm Hughes Blake, was ­appointed interim examiner and is understood to be in talks about selling the supermarkets as a going concern.

In the last accounts filed, the company reported losses of €342,000 for the year ending 31 July 2003, with property assets of €529,000.