Private equity firm Lazard is in talks with potential partners in Asia to sell a stake in Australian biscuit maker Unibic, which is being squeezed by competition in the local market and high input costs, Unibic's managing director said.Unibic, Australia's third-biggest biscuit maker, is looking for a strategic partner to help to grow the business and boost exports into Asia, Managing Director Michael Quinn told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday."We're caught in a bit of a squeeze with the raw material supply situation together with a very competitive retail environment," Quinn said. "It makes it very difficult to operate without a reinvention of the business.""We are exploring a number of options, including part-ownership," he said.Quinn declined to name potential partners as the discussions were confidential, but said Lazard and Unibic were interested in a Chinese partner."The Chinese are interested in some form of alliance. We are certainly interested in exploring the Chinese market from a supply perspective," he said.Unibic, with revenues of about A$70 million ($75 million), is ranked behind Arnott's, owned by Campbell Soup Co, and Goodman Fielder's Paradise brands.Unibic, along with many suppliers, has been squeezed by cut-throat competition between the two top supermarkets, Woolworths and Coles, which have sharply cut prices and offered two-for-one deals on many items.Manufacturers including Heinz and Unilever have complained about pressure from Australian supermarkets, which are ramping up their house labels at the expense of branded goods.At the same time, floods and cyclones in northern Australia earlier this year sharply pushed up costs of key commodities.Quinn said the cost of Unibic's main ingredients, wheat, butter and sugar, have surged 60% over the past three years."It has always been my plan to be relevant in markets offshore, but the cost impost and the retail situation has brought the urgency onto the plate today," Quinn said.Asian firms have shown keen interest in Australasian food makers.Last year, China's Bright Foods made a failed A$1.7 billion tilt at sugar company CSR and Hong-Kong based Affinity Equity Partners bought Tegel Foods in New Zealand from private equity firm Pacific Equity Partners for A$460 million.Unibic already has an operation in Bangalore, which supplies the Indian market. Consumer goods company Marico was negotiating to buy 51% of Unibic's India business, but talks ended in May.A partner is being sought only for the Australian operations. Earlier on Tuesday, Lazard Australia Private Equity took a cornerstone stake in technical services group Hastie. The firm has 10 portfolio companies including Unibic, car service chain Midas and recruiter Chandler Macleod Group, according to its web site.