Britain's biggest food group Premier Foods
said on Thursday it had agreed to sell four of its Irish food brands for 41.4 million euros ($53.9 million) as part of its strategy to cut debt and prevent a breach of its financial covenant with its banks.

The food company is selling its Chivers jams, Gateaux cakes, McDonnells noodles and the licence for Erin soups in Ireland to the Boyne Valley Group, and comes after it agreed to sell its private label chilled food division Brookes Avana for 30 million pounds earlier this month.

Last month, the struggling food maker with hefty debts of 1.3 billion pounds won an extra three-month grace period from its lenders whereby its banks agreed to defer a covenant test to the end of March 2012.

Premier's strategy is to focus on eight key brands such as Ambrosia, Batchelor's, Hovis and Mr. Kipling after it ran into financial troubles following an acquisition spree and as it has felt the squeeze from a sharp rise in commodity costs and suffered from weak consumer demand in Britain.

The sale of these Irish brands will enable us to focus on supporting our power brands in line with our overall strategy, said Premier's Chief Executive Michael Clarke in a statement.

The deal is expected to be completed in early 2012. ($1 = 0.7694 euros)