Value apparel retailer Matalan has revealed it has been approached by an unnamed buyer about the sale of its loss-making Lee Cooper jeans unit.

Matalan said in a statement released today that the interested party has been granted a period of exclusivity in order to consider the possible purchase of the unit.

Retail giants Wal-Mart and Tesco and apparel retailer Target are all rumoured to be interested in acquiring the subsidiary.

The unit reported losses of approximately £800,000 in the first half of 2004, blaming difficult trading conditions - especially in the French market.

In the first six months of its current financial year, like-for-like sales increased 4.5 per cent in the main Matalan chain.

Matalan operates over 160 outlets selling brand name and private-label apparel. Brands include Farah, Pepe, Playtex, Sloggi, Wilson, and Wrangler; its private labels include Lee Cooper, Wolsey, Easy, US Athletic, Falmer, and Jeffrey Rogers.