Receivers have been appointed to the Superquinn chain of supermarkets, which employs almost 2,800 staff across the country.

It is understood that the chain has debts totalling around €400m - and the receivers - Kieran Wallace and Eamonn Richardson of KPMG - were appointed by a syndicate of banks including Bank of Ireland, AIB and National Irish Bank.

However, the company will continue trading as normal under existing management led by Chief Executive Andrew Street in conjunction with the joint receivers.

It is understood the receivers are confident of a fairly quick transaction to sell the business as a going concern.

In a statement, Mr Richardson said: 'The Group, which has been operating in a tough trading environment, has been heavily indebted, primarily due to property related loans.

'Therefore, this receivership, together with the planned sale as a going concern is a positive development for Superquinn, its employees and customers. We hope to be in a position to release further details on a proposed sale in the coming days.'

Founded in 1960 by Senator Feargal Quinn, Superquinn grew into a 24-branch chain employing 2,800 people.

In 2005, the Quinn family sold the company to the Select Retail Holdings consortium for an estimated €450m.

However, the recession took its toll. In 2009 it shed 400 jobs and closed its Dundalk branch - partly due to cross border shopping.

More recently, rumours had circulated that the chain was for sale.

Today's receivership was triggered by a consortium of banks believed to be owed around €400m.

In a statement, the receivers said they were 'confident of a successful sale of the business to a suitable buyer with a view to maintaining the Superquinn brand, the existing Superquinn stores, all of the jobs in these stores, and the highly regarded Superquinn product and service offering.'

Superquinn suppliers will be contacted by the receivers over the coming days to advise them of the implications of the receivership.

The receivers said they would ensure payment for future deliveries for the duration of the receivership.

Assistant General Secretary of the Mandate Trade Union Gerry Light said he was concerned about the jobs of his members at the chain.

Mandate is seeking meetings with the company management and with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton with a view to ensuring that as many jobs as possible are maintained.