Sweden’s Vin & Sprit AB, owner of Absolut Vodka, is understood to be talking to Allied Domecq about a joint bid for Seagram’s drinks portfolio, which includes such brands as Chivas Regal and Martell Cognac.
What looked to be a straight battle between Allied and Diageo could now turn into a three-horse race as analysts believe Bacardi and Brown Forman, owner of brands such as Jack Daniels and Southern Comfort, are also planning to launch a joint bid.
Diageo announced in August that it would join forces with French distiller Pernod Ricard to bid for the &£4.5bn drinks portfolio.
Pat Brazzier, manager of international spirits and wine services at research company Canadean, says Vin & Sprit is likely to team up with Allied, rather than Diageo, because the latter owns the Smirnoff vodka brand. Seagram has exclusive distribution rights to Absolut vodka outside Sweden.
“The Absolut brand is very important. It could well be that Allied Domecq is the winner,” he says.
A spokeswoman for Allied Domecq would not comment on a possible deal with Vin & Sprit. “All I will say is that we are in talks with many people all the time,” she adds.
Fortune Brands, which markets Jim Beam bourbon, is also rumoured to be entering the fray with a view to picking up some of Seagram’s smaller brands.
Vivendi chairman Jean-Marie Messier said last week he expected Canada’s Seagram to have sold its drinks portfolio by the end of the year, following European Union approval of its merger with Vivendi and Canal Plus.