Smithfield Foods Inc., the Virginia company that owns 74 percent of Circle Four Farms, plans to sell some of its interest in the Beaver County hog operation to a private investor group.

In a quarterly report filed Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Smithfield said it is "negotiating the sale of a substantial portion of its investment in Circle Four to a related party."But D. Steven Pollmann, Circle Four's general manager, said Smith-field plans to retain its majority ownership of the operation, meaning it will keep at least a 50 percent interest and management control.

"(Smithfield) is in the process of selling to an investor group as a silent partner . . . that is looking for a more predictable return on investment," Pollmann said Tuesday.

He said the company is negotiating with several parties at this point, none of which have Utah roots.

"It's one of those things where it could happen within a few days, or it could take several months," Pollmann said.

Earlier this year, Smithfield increased its investment in Circle Four from 37 percent to 74 percent by buying out original partner Murphy Family Farms. The SEC report said Smithfield invested an additional $23.5 million in Circle Four at that time.