Pernod considers Absolut bid

Pernod Ricard chairman Pierre Ricard said a decision to bid for Absolut vodka parent company V&S will depend on whether or not Pernod has concluded a deal with Russia's Stolichnaya before the Swedish sale process begins.

Speaking at an analyst conference following the presentation of the group’s full year results, Ricard reiterated that the group was still interested in both acquisition targets, but said the main priority at the moment was Stolichnaya “because Stolichnaya is up for sale.”

In the case of Absolut, however, Pernod is uncertain when or even if the Swedish government will decide to sell the brand’s parent company, V&S, rather than launching an IPO.

In the meantime, Ricard said, “we can maybe finalize (a deal) with the Russians. And if we finalize it, we’ll have less cash to carry out the second deal.”

The chairman confirmed that negotiations with Stolichnaya owner SPI were already well advanced, although gave no indications of the timing of a conclusion.

“We’re more or less in agreement with one of the parties, now we’ve got to reach an agreement with the other,” he said.

Pernod acquired the international sales and marketing rights for Stolichnaya when it bought Allied Domecq in 2005 and has been in negotiations with the Russian authorities and SPI since last spring, looking to pave the way for outright acquisition.

At the same time, the group has made clear its interest in bidding for Sweden’s V&S, a move which has raised concerns among analysts who believe the group could be forced to pay a high price for the prized brand.