Cone Mills Corp, the world's largest denim maker, yesterday announced that it has accepted a $90 million offer from financier Wilbur Ross to buy the company's assets.

The debt-laden company said in a statement that it had also filed a voluntary petition for relief under Chapter 11 with the US Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

The sale, which was originally announced on 16 September, should be completed within 90 days but is subject to approval by a federal bankruptcy judge. In the interim, Cone Mills has arranged for $35 million in post-petition financing from GE Capital to keep its operations afloat.

The 112-year-old company makes denim for Levi Strauss, Gap Inc and VF Corp, but says sales have continued to decline during the third quarter. It employs more than 3,000 people in five factories in North Carolina and South Carolina along with a joint venture in Mexico.

In the statement, the company said its headquarters will remain in Greensboro, where it "expects to maintain a significant US employee base, including a substantial number of manufacturing jobs."

Chief executive John L Bakane has blamed a flood of Asian textile imports for the company's struggles. "Unfortunately, the size and scope of this challenge shows no sign of diminishing, since appeals to Washington from textile industry leaders seem to have fallen on deaf ears, with US trade policies continuing to unfairly favour these overseas competitors," he said.

Ross already has a deal to acquire Greensboro-based Burlington Industries for $614 million, pending approval from a federal bankruptcy judge next month.