Tesco is believed to be in talks with drinks giant Seagram to buy its UK wine merchant operation, Oddbins.
It is thought Tesco has expressed an interest in buying the chain to obtain the rights to the Oddbins brand and use it as a wine-selling franchise in its superstores.
One industry observer says: “The supermarkets have gone about as far as they can in developing their wine businesses – and they are losing out to the specialists. Now they need the expertise of a wine specialist to give them the extra edge.”
Speculation surrounding the Oddbins sell-off has been rife for some time, and it has been linked with various possible buyers, including Victoria Wines.
One analyst says Tesco may want to buy the “unique, colourful and cheerful” brand image to use in its own stores. It may also want to extend its presence on the high street. Any deal would enable it to extend its Clubcard scheme further.
But other City analysts are sceptical about a deal. They say that Tesco would be unlikely to want to run Oddbins’ 214 high street stores.
However, another says it is possible Tesco is seeking information on the company.
Tesco could use the Oddbins brand to improve its profile with ABC1 shoppers, who are the core buyers of wine. The chain has been fighting Sainsbury’s and Safeway to estab- lish the high ground in the market.